April 14, 2017

Weekend reads: Oh my, a 1,500-pound Rubik's cube

Daily Briefing

    The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

    Sam Bernstein's reads

    Oh my, a 1,500-pound Rubik's cube. I don't know about you, but I have never been able to master—let alone make meager progress—on a Rubik's cube. However, if you are already a Rubik's cube master and you are looking for an extra challenge, a group of current and former engineering students at the University of Michigan may be able to help. The group built a 1,500-pound Rubik's cube, which is evidently the world's largest. It sounds like a great way to work out your brain—and your body.

    When falling in love means buying a whale tooth. In Fiji, when a man wants to marry, he traditionally gives a sperm whale tooth to the parents of his hopefully future bride. Some men even start saving up for such a tooth before they have their eyes on someone special. However, conservation efforts mean the islands supply of such teeth are dwindling—making the future of the tradition uncertain.

    Marcelle Maginnis' reads

    It's marathon season. Here's the 'anti-race.' To finish the Barkley Marathons, a runner must complete a nearly 26-mile loop through Frozen Head State Park in eastern Tennessee—and then do it four more times, all in under 60 hours. There are no aid stations, roughly two-thirds of the course are unmarked trails, and the timing of the race, in early spring, practically guarantees foul weather throughout. In the 31 years the race has been in existence, only 18 people have completed the course. So what drives so many people—many of them experienced ultramarathoners and mountain climbers—to compete in a race designed to make people fail? "It's supposed to be a learning experience," Seth Wolpin, a Mount Everest-summiteer who made it only halfway through Barkley's second loop, told Deadspin's Sarah Barkert. "That's the thing about the Barkley—it's one huge cumulative learning experience."

    A particularly bad day for a heart attack? Race day. In the 11 cities that host the largest U.S. marathons, the risk of death by heart attack or cardiac arrest spikes 13 percent on race day, according to a new study published in JAMA. According to researchers, the risk of death jumps because blocked roads and traffic congestion add an estimated four minutes to ambulance's travel times, and an extra 30-40 minutes to the commute of patients taking their own car. The takeaway, according to the researchers, isn't to stop the marathons. Rather, patients in need of emergency care should stick to calling ambulances—and cities should be more thoughtful about re-routing ambulances on days with major road closures. 

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