Daily Briefing

Weekend reads: How facing death could change your life


Whether there's a link between wildfire smoke and lung cancer, three secrets to resilience according to the Danish, and more.

Alyssa Nystrom's reads

Is there a link between wildfire smoke and lung cancer? According to health care experts, exposure to the ash, dust, and soot in wildfire smoke can have a negative impact on health that is similar to exposure from diesel exhaust or smoke from cigarettes. In addition, wildfire smoke can contain cancer-causing heavy metals and hazardous chemicals that are found in in cigarette smoke, which can increase a nonsmoker's lung cancer risk by 20% to 30% through secondhand exposure. Writing for the New York Times, Molly Peterson explores a possible link between wildfire smoke and lung cancer.

How facing death could change your life. Soon after Randy Schiefer became infected with the coronavirus in March 2020, he was rushed to the ED, where he was put into a medically induced coma and forced to rely on a heart-lung machine to keep him alive. Almost a month later, when Schiefer started to come out of the coma, his family noticed changes in his behavior and outlook on life. Writing for NPR, Lee Hale explains the scientific research surrounding the "profound experience that many people have" in the wake of a near-death experience.

Allie Rudin's reads

Listen to the heartbeat of a blue whale—the largest animal to have ever lived. Could heart size be the reason that the largest animal to ever live is also the largest animal that ever could live? According to marine scientists, we can learn a lot about blue whales by studying the organ that weighs over 1,000 pounds and takes 1.8 seconds to complete one heartbeat. As Benji Jones explains for Vox's "Down to Earth," scientists are going to great lengths to, basically, attach EKG sensors to these massive animals. Besides the secrets of whale biology and beaching threats it may unlock, it also means that you can now fall asleep to the soothing sounds of a whale heartbeat.

3 secrets to resilience, according to the Danish. "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" couldn't be more wrong, it seems. Like its Scandinavian neighbors, the country consistently ranks among the happiest countries worldwide, and recent studies even show minimal impact on Danish mental health from the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic. Writing for the New York Times' "Well," Dani Blum enlists Danish researchers to answer what exactly their country is doing right—and comes away with three key lessons for anyone to use in their own life.


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