It has been a while since I’ve used this space to educate you about the incredibleness of the microbiome and the looming bacterial takeover of the planet. But the mainstream media is fully on board with this, so there has been plenty out there for you to chew on. Everyone is talking about the microbiome these days. If you’re not taking probiotics, you’re probably eating sauerkraut and swilling kombucha. I know I am. In fact, I have a huge vat of kombucha brewing on my kitchen counter at this very moment. Did you know the slimy opaque thing growing on top of your kombucha is called a SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast? Since when does a little non-word like “of” get its very own letter in an acronym? But I digress.
I’ve been doing some mindfulness meditation lately. It’s about the simplest “activity” you can imagine – you just sit on the floor, on a cushion, close your eyes, and breathe. And I’m not just doing this because I’ve moved to Vancouver and gone all yoga. Okay, it’s partly that. But it’s also been scientifically proven to build you a better brain. Studies have shown that you can improve blood pressure and anxiety levels, increase cognitive capacity, and stave off aging just by sitting and doing nothing at all. A Harvard prof has done research that shows that it only takes 8 weeks of a meditation practice to rewire your brain. The brains of the meditators actually got thicker in areas involved in attention and sensory processing. It’s like doing pushups for your brain! (And here I thought it was a bad thing to have a thick head…)
Think for a minute: When was your last existential crisis? Who, me? you say. Existential crisis? I don’t have existential crises. I’m a rational thinker. I’m practically an engineer. I think everybody has existential crises, whether we recognize them as such or not. They’re in the high points, in the low points, in the situations that push you over an edge into a new thing. They’re moments in which you get a glimpse of the uncertainty at the very root of everything that is, and wonder about what your place in it could possibly be. You, this little wad of flesh and bone and bacteria.
There are so many things that don’t translate between languages. I could list reams of French one-word concepts that cannot be captured quite right in English. Every time I see one of them in a text I’m supposed to be translating I cringe. Vulgarisation. Valorisation. Territoire. And then there are the turns of phrase. I understood that péter un plomb or péter un cable meant to be really pissed off, but for the longest time I had a really hard time visualizing someone farting out a bit of lead shot or wiring. In French yoga, downward facing dog is chien tête en bas. But I heard chat a tomba. The cat fell. Indeed. So my interest was piqued when I received EPFL’s weekly Science question for translation last Sunday. There is, apparently, a word – or rather, one syllable – that has the same meaning in every language in the click here to read the whole dang post [...]
Hello, December. What happened to November? All of October I was busy with the Yoga Project, happily scribing away my impressions, downward-dogging my way into a new yoga comfort zone. And then it seemed that November just floated right on by. And then yesterday, December 1, I opened the New York Times (oh joy) and I realized that I had been subconsciously working on a blog post for the entire month. It’s long, but I hope you still read it. I’ll call it the One Body Problem. Which is this: We only get one body. This is it. You get the body you were born with, like it or not. And then you die.
Gydle has been silent the entire month of November. No excuses, I just didn’t have anything to say. Then I woke up this morning and my brain was teeming with ideas. Was it something I ate? First, I have a great gift idea. I got an e-mail the other day from “American Gut.” Imagine my excitement! The Human Food Project is live on IndieGoGo. For only $99 and a stool sample, you can get a list of the microbes colonizing your gut. Upscaling is a bargain – it’s $180 for two samples, $260 for three and a mere $320 for a family of four!
I was a little worried that after my last post, someone would stage an intervention. Take away all my running shoes, maybe, or set up a booby trap in front of the door so I would trip and sprain an ankle. Remember, way back this spring I asked you to remind me to be moderate when I started going off the deep end. Thanks for nothing, people! As it happens, I intervened all by myself and took two consecutive days off. Then I went into a funk. And that has really slowed me down.
Greetings from hibernation nation. I did say I’d come out if something really big happened. Guess what? One of my current scientific obsessions was Big News today! No, don’t go away – it’s not the microbiome. It’s my other obsession: junk DNA. I’ve written about it before, here and here and here. In a stunning “no doh?” development, a vast international array of researchers has discovered that the 99% of the human genome that was considered “useless junk” isn’t junk after all.
I know I’m supposed to be in hibernation, but something came up that was so good I just had to share it with you. You know by now that I am totally fascinated by the human microbiome, those trillions of microbes that make up most of the human organism. I’ve written here on Gydle about how microbes in our guts may implicated in a variety of ailments, from diabetes to Parkinson’s to obesity and irritable bowel disease. I also wrote recently that the massive NIH-finded Human Microbiome Project has had a number of publications like this one in Nature Magazine that outline thier discoveries about the makeup and function of a “healthy” human microbiome. I have a feeling that what we find out about the microbiome may well revolutionize our approach to health and medicine. You might also remember from last year that I’m also fascinated by the concept of click here to read the whole dang post [...]
I know I said I was going into hibernation. Even though it’s summer, and the root of that word is “hiver” or winter. Well, it’s winter in Australia, isn’t it? But this is just too good to pass up. There’s an article in the NYT today about internet addiction, and how Silicon Valley firms are debating whether they have any responsibility for what increasingly appears to be a true physical addiction to the stimulation of going online.