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January 6, 2017

Weekend reads: If cancer were a poet…

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.

    Thomas Seay's reads

    If cancer were a poet. They say that every villain is the hero of his or her own story; apparently, that's true even when the villain is cancer. "I Long to Be King," a recently published poem by Chinese surgeon Zhao Xiaogang, is framed as a rags-to-riches story from cancer's point of view—praising, among other allies, the dense smog that plagues some urban areas of China:

        I've been nourished on the delicious mist and haze,
        That sweetly warmed my heart,
        Always loving when you were heavy drunk and smoking,
        Creating me a cozy home.

    Is this the year technology finally beats insomnia? Probably not—but the companies debuting new products at this year's Consumer Electronics Show are certainly doing their best to give us all a decent night's sleep. Among the products on display are sleep trackers, smart mattresses, intelligent alarm clocks, and beds with built-in foot warmers.

    Sam Bernstein's reads

    We're going to need a bigger boat. A 466-pound bluefin tuna fetched a record $632,000 at an auction in Japan on Thursday. Kiyoshi Kimura, the owner of a large Japanese sushi chain, made the winning bid for the enormous fish. Unfortunately, bluefin tuna are being fished at unsustainable rates, according to several conservation groups. Slow down, world; I want to write amusing-massive-tuna stories for years to come.

    Are you afraid of the ocean? I have the town for you! It's surprisingly difficult to decide where the "center" of North America is. the U.S. Geological Survey gave it a shot in 1931—picking a spot near Rugby, North Dakota—but updated that location in 1995 to a small body of water about 20 miles away. Part of the problem is that scientists don't agree on how to define "center." Does a formula include islands? What about changing shorelines? Peter Rogerson, a professor of geography at the University at Buffalo, has a new method that he says is more accurate than previous efforts because it considers the curvature of the earth. But I think the best thing the model has going for it is the town it selected: Center, North Dakota.

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    Aly Seidel's reads

    What's the best way to learn a language? Becoming fluent in a language takes years of work, but scientists in Germany are trying to change that. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences are working with Syrian refugees to find the best way to teach German to non-native speakers. The students access the language classes for free, and they undergo brain scans throughout the course so scientists can see how their brain changes as they progress.

    Here's what happened when researchers strapped FitBits to hunter-gatherers. The people of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania are hunter-gatherers who spend much of their days moving to find food. To understand the effect of such moderate, sustained activity on health, researchers tracked 46 subjects' heart rates over four two-week periods. According to the researchers, the subjects showed no evidence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

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