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Reaping the benefits of creation

Study shows time in nature improves mental clarity

Reaping the benefits of creation

Many people long for the good old days when children weren’t penned in with hectic activity schedules and parents ushered them outside to play. Adults, too, often stare out office windows, longing for a few hours in the fresh air and sunshine, away from steel and concrete buildings.

The yearning to enjoy God’s creation seems built into us, and for good reason, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS One. A plethora of scientific studies show the benefits of time spent out in nature for children and adults alike, but the new research adds another twist: Time outdoors is linked to a decrease in impulsive decision making.

The scientists studied 609 adults in the United States and found that exposure to nature not only significantly reduced impulsivity but also depression, anxiety, and stress. The researchers noted that a decrease in impulsivity likely improves health, partially because well-thought-out decisions often lead to healthier choices, like making a nutritious meal at home instead of heading out for fast food.

Due to the many technological advances of our day and with more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas, people have drastically reduced the amount of time they spend outdoors, the researchers said.

Previous scientific studies showed that outdoor activity can reduce recovery time following surgery, increase cancer patients’ production of anti-cancer proteins, reduce hypertension, produce changes in brain chemistry associated with calming, regulate heart rate, increase endorphins, and regulate sleep-wake cycles. A study published earlier this year in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found that classroom teachers could teach twice as long without any interruptions right after 9- and 10-year-old students spent time participating in an outdoor class.

The researchers credit evolution for the beneficial effects of nature: “Human history evolved around an intimate connection to the natural environment.” But the Bible tells the story of God creating a garden perfectly suited for His human children, who even today still reap the benefits of His good design.

An ancient Egyptian medical text

An ancient Egyptian medical text University of Copenhagen/Carlsberg Papyrus Collection

Medical advice from ancient Egypt

A team of researchers analyzing a large collection of Egyptian papyrus manuscripts uncovered instructions for an ancient method of determining an unborn baby’s sex. The medical advice of the day told women to urinate into separate bags of barley and wheat. The bag that sprouted first would reveal the gender of the baby. If neither bag sprouted, the ancients believed, it would indicate the woman wasn’t pregnant. This is just one finding reported by a team of researchers just beginnning to analyze a huge collection of ancient Egyptian papyrus manuscripts housed at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

These texts represent some of the oldest known scientific manuscripts, pre-dating even the oldest Greek and Roman writings, Egyptologist Kim Ryholt told Science Nordic. “One of our medical texts was written 3,500 years ago when there was no written material on the European continent,” he said.

The ancient manuscripts show the Egyptians possessed knowledge of kidneys and developed treatments for eye diseases. The collection contains not only medical texts but also writings on botany, astronomy, and other sciences.

Sofie Schiødt, one of the researchers, noted the ideas recorded in the medical texts later spread to Greece, Rome, and the Middle East. Some traces of these ideas even made their way into premodern medical writings. —J.B.

An ancient Egyptian medical text

An ancient Egyptian medical text University of Copenhagen/Carlsberg Papyrus Collection

Don’t like broccoli? Blame it on your proteins

Parents trying to get finicky toddlers to eat their vegetables likely wonder why a certain food can delight the taste buds of one person but repulse another. New research, presented at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, shows that individual differences in saliva proteins may cause a food to taste vastly different to various people.

People tend to avoid food that tastes bad to them. In the case of healthy foods, that avoidance may not be a good thing. But the researchers found that continuing to eat a bad-tasting food changes the protein composition of the saliva.

“By changing your diet, you might be able to change your flavor experience of foods that at one point tasted nasty to you,” lead researcher Cordelia Running said in a statement.

The researchers hope their findings will not only help people stick to a healthier diet long enough to come to like it, but also lead to the development of food additives that can mimic salivary proteins and improve a food’s flavor. —J.B.

Electric bacteria

Researchers at the State University of New York, Binghamton, unveiled a paper battery powered by bacteria at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting this month. The battery was designed to overcome obstacles to powering medical instruments in remote regions of the globe that lack access to electricity or expensive batteries.

The researchers created a flexible, inexpensive, and disposable battery by printing thin layers of metals and other materials onto a paper surface. Then they embedded in the paper a special type of bacteria, known as exoelectrogens, that transfer electrons through their cell membranes to the outside world when they make energy for themselves. In the lab, the bacteria produced enough electrons to power a calculator.

The researchers hope to develop a means to extend the battery’s four-month shelf life and boost its performance. —J.B.

Lunar chill

Scientists have long thought of the moon as a ball of dusty craters, mountains, and rock debris. But researchers at the University of Hawaii just discovered evidence of ice on the moon’s surface.

“I did not have any hope to see ice features when I started this project,” lead researcher Shuai Li said in a statement. “I was astounded when I looked closer.”

By analyzing data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper onboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe, launched in 2008, the researchers found that the patchy distribution of ice on the moon and its limited quantity makes it unique compared to other planetary bodies, such as Mercury and the dwarf planet Ceres.

The discovery may open the way to explore the moon’s ice as a potential resource, the researchers noted. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.

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