Weekend reads: Why Scottish seals are learning to sing the Star Wars theme song

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Coffee might help you lose weight. Drinking at least one cup of coffee every day may help you lose weight, according to a study in Scientific Reports. Researchers in the study discovered that drinking coffee could stimulate brown adipose tissue, also known as "brown fat," which can generate heat and metabolize macronutrients by burning calories. David Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, said, "We all have that warm feeling after we drink a cup of coffee, because we're stimulating the brown fat." But Agus cautioned that you shouldn't start drinking a ton of coffee. "[U]p to three cups a day may have a health benefit, [with] no detriment," he said. "Don't do more," and don't drink any "coffee after 1 or 2 p.m.," since it could keep you up.

    Is your phone habit keeping you up? New remedies target 'blue light.' Even though most people know that looking at electronic devices can disrupt your sleep cycle, it's hard to change your habits—which is why there's a growing number of "remedies" aimed at blocking "blue light." According to experts, blue light, which is part of any bright white light, can make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep because it suppresses the body's ability to release melatonin. So what can you do to mitigate your bad light habits? Experts recommend exposing yourself to sunlight during the day and curbing your nighttime screen-time—but, if that's too difficult, try downloading special apps on your phone that can help blog blue light or investing in special glass, like tinted Uvex glasses, that block all light in the blue spectrum.

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    Why seals in Scotland are learning how to sing the Star Wars theme. Researchers at University of St. Andrews in Scotland are training seals to sing a few notes of the Star Wars theme song and "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star." The seals learned the song by hearing a computer play the first seven notes, and then being rewarded with fish when they sang back the tune back. Amanda Stansbury, director of the Scottish Oceans Institute, said she started the research when she was earning her Ph.D. at the university. "What's new about this research is we taught the seals how to imitate new sounds," she said. "The first time that you hear them actually imitate something recognizable back, it just blows you away." Stansbury said the study may provide more insight into how mammals learn sounds, which could lead to innovations in speech therapy for humans.  

    'Sober curiosity' is trending. For a lot of adults, drinking is a social activity that allows them to decompress after work and make new friends. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism even found that 56% of adults over 18 reported having alcohol in the last month. But, according to NPR, skipping drinks altogether is becoming more common: More and more adults are participating in the "sober curious" or "sober sometimes" movement, which allows adults to experience the benefits of abstaining from alcohol either short-term or longer term. Stephanie Forte, a member of a sober social club, said her "overall health" improved when she stopped drinking—and research suggests Forte's experience makes sense.  For instance, one study found that participants who stopped drinking for one month lost weight and saw improved blood pressure numbers, liver health, and insulin sensitivity.

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