Placeholder Content Image

Why do dogs have different coats? Experts explain – and give grooming tips for different types

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-hazel-402495">Susan Hazel</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mia-cobb-15211">Mia Cobb</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>Dog hair comes in many varieties, from shaggy to short, curly to straight. If you live with a dog, you live with their hair – on your couch, in your clothes, it’s everywhere!</p> <p>Beyond colour, have you ever wondered what’s behind the differences in coat type?</p> <p>We actually know quite a lot about why dogs have different coats, and it comes down to their genes.</p> <h2>What are the main coat types in dogs?</h2> <p>The three main features of dog coats are how long the hairs are, whether they are curly or straight, and whether they have extra flourishes. The flourishes are called “furnishings”, and can include a hairy moustache and shaggy eyebrows.</p> <p>Combinations of these three features result in seven different coat types in dogs: short, wire, wire and curly, long, long with furnishings, curly, and curly with furnishings.</p> <p>We know from a <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.1177808">study of more than 1,000 dogs with varying coats</a> that differences in only three genes are responsible for this variety.</p> <p>The gene responsible for long hair (called FGF5) is <a href="https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/basics/patterns">recessive</a>, meaning dogs must have two copies of the mutated gene to have long hair. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1402862111">In humans</a>, the same gene has been identified in families with excessively long eyelashes.</p> <p>Curly coats in dogs are related to a gene called <a href="https://www.pawprintgenetics.com/products/tests/details/173/">KRT71</a>, which affects keratin, a protein involved in hair formation. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2974189/">Mutations in this gene</a> in cats result in hairless (Sphynx) or curly-haired (Devon Rex) breeds.</p> <p>The gene responsible for furnishings (<a href="https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/rspo2/">RSPO2</a>) is involved in establishing hair follicles. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/hair-follicle">Hair follicles</a> are small pockets in the skin that grow hair.</p> <p>Variations in these three genes could explain the coat type in most (but not all!) of the dogs tested. For example, the long coat of the Afghan hound is not explained by these three genes. Further study is needed to identify less common mutations and genes controlling the coat in these dogs.</p> <p>The earliest dog breeds would have been short-haired, as a result of the “wild-type” genes. Later changes would have arisen through mutation and deliberate selection <a href="https://theconversation.com/managing-mutations-of-a-species-the-evolution-of-dog-breeding-96635">through modern breeding practices</a>.</p> <p>If all three mutations are present, the dog has a long, curly coat with furnishings. An example is the Bichon Frisé.</p> <h2>What else varies in dog coats?</h2> <p>Dog coat types can also be single or double. In a double-coated breed such as a Labrador, there is a longer coarse layer of hairs and a softer and shorter undercoat. Wolves and ancestral dogs are single-coated, and the double coat is a result of a <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4425/10/5/323">mutation in chromosome 28</a>.</p> <p>In the Labrador, the mutation was probably selected for as they were bred to <a href="https://www.gov.nl.ca/releases/2023/exec/0525n07/">retrieve fishing nets in Canada</a>. The double coat is a great insulator and helps them to stay warm, even in icy water.</p> <h2>Why does it matter what kind of coat a dog has?</h2> <p>We know with climate change our world is going to get hotter. Dogs with a double coat are less able to tolerate heat stress, as their hair prevents heat loss.</p> <p>In a study of dogs <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/avj.13296">suffering heat-related illness</a>, most of the 15 breeds at higher risk had double coats. The death rate in these dogs was 23%. We can only imagine how it must feel going out on a 40 degree day wearing a thick fur coat.</p> <p>Dogs with a double coat shed more hair than dogs with a single coat. This means even short-haired breeds, like the Labrador retriever, can shed an astonishing amount of hair. If you can’t tolerate dog hair, then a dog with a double-coat may not suit you.</p> <p>When we think of wool we think of sheep, but in the past <a href="https://www.si.edu/stories/woolly-dog-mystery-unlocked">woolly dogs were kept for their wool</a> that was <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adi6549">woven by Indigenous groups</a> and used to make blankets.</p> <p>A dog’s coat also affects how much time and effort is needed for grooming. Dogs with long or curly hair with furnishings are likely to need more time invested in their care, or visits to a professional groomer.</p> <p>Designer dogs (cross-bred dogs often crossed with a poodle, such as groodles), are likely to be curly with furnishings. In a US study, people with designer dogs reported meeting their dogs’ maintenance and grooming requirements was <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/23/3247">much harder than they expected</a>.</p> <p>It’s not just bank balances and the time needed that can suffer. If people are unable to cope with the demands of grooming long-haired dogs, lack of grooming can cause welfare problems. A study of animal cruelty cases in New York found <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2022.827348/full">13% involved hair matting</a>, with some hair mats causing strangulation wounds and 93% of affected dogs having long hair.</p> <h2>How can you prevent problems?</h2> <p>If you have a curly- or long-haired breed of dog, it will help to train them to like being brushed from an early age. You can do this by counter-conditioning so they have a positive emotional response to being groomed, rather than feeling anxious. First show the brush or lightly brush them, then give them a treat. They learn to associate being brushed with something positive.</p> <p>If you take your dog to the groomer, it’s very important their first experience is positive. A scary or painful incident will make it much more difficult for future grooming.</p> <p>Is your dog difficult to groom or hard to get out of the car at the groomers? It’s likely grooming is scary for them. Consulting a dog trainer or animal behaviourist who focuses on positive training methods can help a lot.</p> <p>Keeping your dog well groomed, no matter their hair type, will keep them comfortable. More important than looking great, feeling good is an essential part of dogs living their best lives with us.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/232480/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-hazel-402495">Susan Hazel</a>, Associate Professor, School of Animal and Veterinary Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mia-cobb-15211">Mia Cobb</a>, Research Fellow, Animal Welfare Science Centre, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-dogs-have-different-coats-experts-explain-and-give-grooming-tips-for-different-types-232480">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Family & Pets

Placeholder Content Image

Why do I poo in the morning? A gut expert explains

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/vincent-ho-141549">Vincent Ho</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></p> <p>No, you’re not imagining it. People really are more likely to poo in the morning, shortly after breakfast. Researchers have actually studied this.</p> <p>But why mornings? What if you tend to poo later in the day? And is it worth training yourself to be a morning pooper?</p> <p>To understand what makes us poo when we do, we need to consider a range of factors including our body clock, gut muscles and what we have for breakfast.</p> <p>Here’s what the science says.</p> <h2>So morning poos are real?</h2> <p>In a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1379343/">UK study</a> from the early 1990s, researchers asked nearly 2,000 men and women in Bristol about their bowel habits.</p> <p>The most common time to poo was in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1379343/pdf/gut00573-0122.pdf">early morning</a>. The peak time was 7-8am for men and about an hour later for women. The researchers speculated that the earlier time for men was because they woke up earlier for work.</p> <p>About a decade later, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16200717/">a Chinese study</a> found a similar pattern. Some 77% of the almost 2,500 participants said they did a poo in the morning.</p> <h2>But why the morning?</h2> <p>There are a few reasons. The first involves our <a href="https://theconversation.com/circadian-rhythm-nobel-what-they-discovered-and-why-it-matters-85072">circadian rhythm</a> – our 24-hour internal clock that helps regulate bodily processes, such as digestion.</p> <p>For healthy people, our internal clock means the muscular contractions in our colon follow <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19926812/">a distinct rhythm</a>.</p> <p>There’s minimal activity in the night. The deeper and more restful our sleep, the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4677652">fewer</a> of these muscle contractions we have. It’s one reason why we don’t tend to poo in our sleep.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/597362/original/file-20240530-21-v2gvrq.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/597362/original/file-20240530-21-v2gvrq.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/597362/original/file-20240530-21-v2gvrq.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/597362/original/file-20240530-21-v2gvrq.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/597362/original/file-20240530-21-v2gvrq.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/597362/original/file-20240530-21-v2gvrq.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=565&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/597362/original/file-20240530-21-v2gvrq.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=565&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/597362/original/file-20240530-21-v2gvrq.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=565&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Diagram of digestive system including colon and rectum" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Your lower gut is a muscular tube that contracts more strongly at certain times of day.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/illustration-healthcare-medical-education-drawing-chart-1984316789">Vectomart/Shutterstock</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>But there’s increasing activity during the day. Contractions in our colon are most active in the morning after waking up and after any meal.</p> <p>One particular type of colon contraction partly controlled by our internal clock are known as “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1411356/">mass movements</a>”. These are powerful contractions that push poo down to the rectum to prepare for the poo to be expelled from the body, but don’t always result in a bowel movement. In healthy people, these contractions occur a few times a day. They are more frequent in the morning than in the evening, and after meals.</p> <p>Breakfast is also a trigger for us to poo. When we eat and drink our stomach stretches, which triggers the “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549888/">gastrocolic reflex</a>”. This reflex stimulates the colon to forcefully contract and can lead you to push existing poo in the colon out of the body. We know the gastrocolic reflex is strongest in the morning. So that explains why breakfast can be such a powerful trigger for a bowel motion.</p> <p>Then there’s our morning coffee. This is a very <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2338272/">powerful stimulant</a> of contractions in the sigmoid colon (the last part of the colon before the rectum) and of the rectum itself. This leads to a bowel motion.</p> <h2>How important are morning poos?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1846921/pdf/brmedj02601-0041.pdf">Large international</a> <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20205503/">surveys</a> show the vast majority of people will poo between three times a day and three times a week.</p> <p>This still leaves a lot of people who don’t have regular bowel habits, are regular but poo at different frequencies, or who don’t always poo in the morning.</p> <p>So if you’re healthy, it’s much more important that your bowel habits are comfortable and regular for you. Bowel motions <em>do not</em> have to occur once a day in the morning.</p> <p>Morning poos are also not a good thing for everyone. <a href="https://gut.bmj.com/content/61/Suppl_2/A318.1">Some people</a> with <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-irritable-bowel-syndrome-and-what-can-i-do-about-it-102579">irritable bowel syndrome</a> feel the urgent need to poo in the morning – often several times after getting up, during and after breakfast. This can be quite distressing. It appears this early-morning rush to poo is due to overstimulation of colon contractions in the morning.</p> <h2>Can you train yourself to be regular?</h2> <p>Yes, for example, to help treat constipation using the gastrocolic reflex. Children and elderly people with constipation can use the toilet immediately after eating breakfast <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549888/">to relieve symptoms</a>. And for adults with constipation, drinking coffee regularly can help stimulate the gut, particularly in the morning.</p> <p>A disturbed circadian rhythm can also lead to irregular bowel motions and people more likely to poo in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7147411/">evenings</a>. So better sleep habits can not only help people get a better night’s sleep, it can help them get into a more regular bowel routine.</p> <p>Regular physical activity and avoiding <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2787735/">sitting down a lot</a> are also important in <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16028436/">stimulating bowel movements</a>, particularly in people with constipation.</p> <p>We know <a href="https://theconversation.com/nervous-tummy-why-you-might-get-the-runs-before-a-first-date-106925">stress</a> can contribute to irregular bowel habits. So minimising stress and focusing on relaxation <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5193306/">can help</a> bowel habits become more regular.</p> <p>Fibre from fruits and vegetables also <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/665565/">helps</a> make bowel motions more regular.</p> <p>Finally, ensuring <a href="https://theconversation.com/health-check-what-causes-constipation-114290">adequate hydration</a> helps minimise the chance of developing constipation, and helps make bowel motions more regular.</p> <h2>Monitoring your bowel habits</h2> <p>Most of us consider pooing in the morning to be regular. But there’s a wide variation in normal so don’t be concerned if your poos don’t follow this pattern. It’s more important your poos are comfortable and regular for you.</p> <p>If there’s a major change in the regularity of your bowel habits that’s concerning you, see your GP. The reason might be as simple as a change in diet or starting a new medication.</p> <p>But sometimes this can signify an important change in the health of your gut. So your GP may need to arrange further investigations, which could include blood tests or imaging.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/229624/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/vincent-ho-141549">Vincent Ho</a>, Associate Professor and clinical academic gastroenterologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-i-poo-in-the-morning-a-gut-expert-explains-229624">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

Almost half the men surveyed think they could land a passenger plane. Experts disagree

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/guido-carim-junior-1379129">Guido Carim Junior</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chris-campbell-1414564">Chris Campbell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/elvira-marques-1362476">Elvira Marques</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nnenna-ike-1490692">Nnenna Ike</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tim-ryley-1253269">Tim Ryley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p>Picture this: you’re nestled comfortably in your seat cruising towards your holiday destination when a flight attendant’s voice breaks through the silence:</p> <blockquote> <p>Ladies and gentlemen, both pilots are incapacitated. Are there any passengers who could land this plane with assistance from air traffic control?</p> </blockquote> <p>If you think you could manage it, you’re not alone. <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/survey-results/daily/2023/01/02/fd798/3">Survey results</a> published in January indicate about one-third of adult Americans think they could safely land a passenger aircraft with air traffic control’s guidance. Among male respondents, the confidence level rose to nearly 50%.</p> <p>Can a person with no prior training simply guide everyone to a smooth touchdown?</p> <p>We’ve all heard stories of passengers who saved the day when the pilot became unresponsive. For instance, last year <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbMoyWukjbs">Darren Harrison</a> managed to land a twin-engine aircraft in Florida – after the pilot passed out – with the guidance of an air traffic controller who also happened to be a flight instructor.</p> <p>However, such incidents tend to take place in small, simple aircraft. Flying a much bigger and heavier commercial jet is a completely different game.</p> <h2>You can’t always rely on autopilot</h2> <p>A pilot spends about 90% of their time monitoring autopilot systems and making sure everything is working as intended. The other 10% is spent managing problems, taxiing, taking off and landing.</p> <p>Takeoffs and landings are arguably the most difficult tasks pilots perform, and are always performed manually. Only on very few occasions, and in a handful of aircraft models, can a pilot use autopilot to land the aircraft for them. This is the exception, and not the rule.</p> <p>For takeoff, the aircraft must build up speed until the wings can generate enough lift to pull it into the air. The pilot must <a href="https://youtu.be/16XTAK-4Xbk?si=66yDo5g5I086Q2y2&amp;t=65">pay close attention</a> to multiple instruments and external cues, while keeping the aircraft centred on the runway until it reaches lift-off speed.</p> <p>Once airborne, they must coordinate with air traffic control, follow a particular path, retract the landing gear and maintain a precise speed and direction while trying to climb.</p> <p>Landing is even more complicated, and requires having precise control of the aircraft’s direction and descent rate.</p> <p><a href="https://youtu.be/u_it9OiTnSM?si=xNZrLB9ZH870LEa3&amp;t=360">To land successfully</a>, a pilot must keep an appropriate speed while simultaneously managing gear and flap configuration, adhering to air traffic regulations, communicating with air traffic control and completing a number of paper and digital checklists.</p> <p>Once the aircraft comes close to the runway, they must accurately judge its height, reduce power and adjust the rate of descent – ensuring they land on the correct area of the runway.</p> <p>On the ground, they will use the brakes and reverse thrust to bring the aircraft to a complete stop before the runway ends. This all happens within just a few minutes.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Nyx4NyMrvOs?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Both takeoff and landing are far too quick, technical and concentration-intensive for an untrained person to pull off. They also require a range of skills that are only gained through extensive training, such as understanding the information presented on different gauges, and being able to coordinate one’s hands and feet in a certain way.</p> <h2>Training a pilot</h2> <p>The journey from student to commercial pilot is a long one. It normally starts with a recreational licence, followed by a private licence, and then a commercial licence (which allows them to fly professionally).</p> <p>Even before stepping into a cockpit, the student must study aerodynamics, air law and flight rules, meteorology, human factors, navigation, aircraft systems, and performance and flight planning. They also need to spend time learning about the specific aircraft they will be flying.</p> <p>Once the fundamentals are grasped, an instructor takes them for training. Most of this training is conducted in small, lightweight aircraft – with a simulator introduced briefly towards the end.</p> <p>During a lesson, each manoeuvre or action is demonstrated by the instructor before the student attempts it. Their attempt may be adjusted, corrected or even terminated early in critical situations.</p> <p>The first ten to fifteen lessons focus on takeoff, landing, basic in-flight control and emergency management. When the students are ready, they’re allowed to “go solo” – wherein they conduct a complete flight on their own. This is a great milestone.</p> <p>After years of experience, they are ready to transition to a commercial aircraft. At this point they might be able to take off and land reasonably well, but they will still undergo extensive training specific to the aircraft they are flying, including hours of advanced theory, dozens of simulator sessions and hundreds of hours of real aircraft training (most of which is done with passengers onboard).</p> <p>So, if you’ve never even learned the basics of flying, your chances of successfully landing a passenger aircraft with air traffic control’s help are close to zero.</p> <h2>Yet, flying is a skill like any other</h2> <p>Aviation training has been democratised by the advent of high-end computers, virtual reality and flight simulation games such as Microsoft’s <a href="https://www.flightsimulator.com/">Flight Simulator</a> and <a href="https://www.x-plane.com/">X-Plane</a>.</p> <p>Anyone can now rig up a desktop flight simulator for a few thousand dollars. Ideally, such a setup should also include the basic physical controls found in a cockpit, such as a control yoke, throttle quadrant and pedals.</p> <p>Flight simulators provide an immersive environment in which professional pilots, students and aviation enthusiasts can develop their skills. So if you really think you could match-up against a professional, consider trying your hand at one.</p> <p>You almost certainly won’t be able to land an actual passenger plane by the end of it – but at least you’ll gain an appreciation for the immense skill pilots possess.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/218037/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/guido-carim-junior-1379129"><em>Guido Carim Junior</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Aviation, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chris-campbell-1414564">Chris Campbell</a>, Adjunct Associate Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/elvira-marques-1362476">Elvira Marques</a>, Aviation PhD candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nnenna-ike-1490692">Nnenna Ike</a>, Research Assistant, Griffith Aviation, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tim-ryley-1253269">Tim Ryley</a>, Professor and Head of Griffith Aviation, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: </em><em>Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/almost-half-the-men-surveyed-think-they-could-land-a-passenger-plane-experts-disagree-218037">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Why do we love to see unlikely animal friendships? A psychology expert explains

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/shane-rogers-575838">Shane Rogers</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p>The internet is awash with stories and videos of unlikely animal friendships, often with many millions of views. This content typically shows animals from different species showing affection to one another, signifying a bond or even a “friendship”.</p> <p>These relationships have been captured in people’s homes, such as with <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-10/meet-unlikely-friends-peggy-the-dog-and-molly-the-magpie/100447022">Molly the magpie and Peggy the dog</a>, in zoos, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-04/bear-lion-and-tiger-make-an-affectionate,-gentle-family/7222462">such as with</a> Baloo the bear, Leo the lion and Shere Khan the tiger, and even <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BvB0182xag&amp;t=2300s">in the wild</a>, such as one case of <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fox-cat-friendship_n_4268629">a fox and cat living together</a> in Turkey.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fdxU6CpvUgg?wmode=transparent&amp;start=19" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>A plethora of research on <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-66407-w.pdf">primates</a>, <a href="https://blog.mybirdbuddy.com/post/can-birds-form-friendships">birds</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-social-lives-of-kangaroos-are-more-complex-than-we-thought-213770">kangaroos</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/male-dolphins-use-their-individual-names-to-build-a-complex-social-network-97780">dolphins</a>, <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/8/11/191">horses</a>, <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/1/126">cats</a> and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-05669-y">dogs</a> has shown many non-human animals can develop deep social bonds with their own kind.</p> <p>And while inter-species bonding hasn’t been studied to the same extent, videos like those mentioned above show animals from different species displaying the same affection to each other as they would to their own, such as through cuddling, playing and grooming.</p> <p>Why do we, as people, find these stories so enjoyable? Answering this question requires us to consider some of the nicer aspects of our own nature.</p> <h2>When animals reflect us</h2> <p>Witnessing animals get along well together isn’t just cute, it can also make us feel like we have things in common with other species, and feel more connected with the other life on the planet. <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00976/full">Decades of research</a> reveals how feeling connected to nature fosters happiness in humans.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PrJi-P61aLY?wmode=transparent&amp;start=7" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>While the mechanisms behind inter-species bonding are not fully understood, <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2022.994504/full">one 2022 research review</a> suggests the mechanisms that operate in other animals’ brains during social interactions with their own are similar to those that operate in human brains.</p> <p>The researchers suggest that, due to the evolution of common brain mechanisms, animals engaged in social interaction may experience similar emotions to humans who engage with their own friends or loved ones.</p> <p>So while it’s very hard to know what this subjective social experience is like for other animals – after all, they can’t report it on a questionnaire – there’s no reason to think it isn’t similar to our own.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZVMsdz7aZpk?wmode=transparent&amp;start=102" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Humans like co-operation and pleasant surprises</h2> <p>Humans have <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2022.0128">evolved to enjoy co-operation</a>, which might also help explain why we enjoy seeing co-operation between different animal species. <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/listen/programs/lifematters/competition-versus-cooperation:-which-human-instinct-is-stronge/10291360">Some scholars</a> suggest the human instinct for co-operation is even stronger than our instinct for competition.</p> <p>Another reason we may be drawn to unlikely animal friendships is that they are, in fact, so unlikely. These interactions are surprising, and research shows humans <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/neuroscientists-learn-why/">enjoy being surprised</a>.</p> <p>Our brain has <a href="https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/239331/study-reveals-human-brains-have-evolved/">evolved to be incredibly efficient</a> at categorising, solving problems and learning. Part of the reason we’re so efficient is because we are motivated to seek new knowledge and question what we think we know. In other words, we’re motivated to be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4635443/">curious</a>.</p> <p>Inter-species friendships are indeed a very curious thing. They contradict the more common assumption and observation that different species stick with their own kind. We might think “cats eat birds, so they must not like each other”. So when we see <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGsN7jzp5DE">a cat and a bird</a> getting along like old pals, this challenges our concept of how the natural world works.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bGsN7jzp5DE?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Neuroscientists have documented that, when surprised, humans experience a release of brain chemicals responsible for making us <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/unexpected-brain-chemistry-is-behind-the-element-of-surprise/">more alert</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627320308539">sensitive to reward</a>. It is this neurochemical reaction that produces the “pleasantness” in the feeling of being pleasantly surprised.</p> <h2>A desire for peace and harmony</h2> <p>Perhaps another explanation for why humans are so intrigued by inter-species friendships is because they feed a human desire for peace and harmony.</p> <p>These connections may be symbolic of what many people yearn for: a world where differences can be put aside in favour of a peaceful co-existence. These friendships might even prompt us to imagine, consciously or subconsciously, a future in which we become more enlightened as a species.</p> <p>One could argue a key reason behind the success of the TV series <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANnFNfVuZeM">Star Trek</a> is its <a href="https://jacobin.com/2023/08/star-trek-solidarity-utopianism-technology-postcapitalism">optimistic take on the future of humanity</a>. Inter-species co-operation is a central theme of the show.</p> <p>Inter-species friendships may serve as a concrete example of breaking free of the “natural” way of being for a more peaceful way of being. And while it might only be a dream, it’s nice to watch cute animal videos that help us feel like this dream might be possible.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/230548/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_BvB0182xag?wmode=transparent&amp;start=1880" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/shane-rogers-575838">Shane Rogers</a>, Lecturer in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-we-love-to-see-unlikely-animal-friendships-a-psychology-expert-explains-230548">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Family & Pets

Placeholder Content Image

Battling to make ends meet? Financial planning expert offers 5 tips on how to build your budget

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p>Every day seems to bring new headlines about rising costs. <a href="https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/nigerias-big-unions-call-indefinite-strike-over-fuel-prices-and-the-cost-of-living-20230926">In Nigeria</a>, unions are threatening to strike amid soaring fuel prices; the country’s inflation rate <a href="https://www.cbn.gov.ng/rates/inflrates.asp">hit 25%</a> in August. The amount it costs to fill a food basket in South Africa <a href="https://pmbejd.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/PMBEJD_Key-Data_September-2023_27092023.pdf">keeps climbing</a>. Ghanaians <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/multi-day-protests-over-economic-crisis-grip-ghanas-capital-2023-09-23/">took to the streets</a> of Accra in late September to protest about the cost of living.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/retail-distribution/consumer-behavior-trends-state-of-the-consumer-tracker.html">recent study by the audit and consulting firm Deloitte</a> found that 75% of South Africans were concerned that the prices for everyday purchases would continue to increase, while 80% of consumers across all income groups expected the prices of groceries, household utilities and fuel to rise.</p> <p>This stark reality means budgeting may be more necessary than ever.</p> <p>If you don’t know how to create a budget, then you shouldn’t feel bad – most adults aren’t taught how to create one. And most people don’t budget, because they see it as restrictive or unsustainable. But it need not be: once you appreciate that a budget can work for you, it can be a financially empowering exercise. It’s a cornerstone of financial planning because it ensures you are living within your means and helps you remain in financial control.</p> <p>As a financial planning academic, I focus in <a href="https://researchprofiles.canberra.edu.au/en/persons/bomikazi-zeka/publications/">my research</a> on improving financial wellbeing and promoting savings behaviours through interventions such as budgeting. Here are five guidelines for creating a budget.</p> <h2>1. Apps vs spreadsheet</h2> <p>A good place to start is to choose the format of how you’re going to budget. There are several <a href="https://www.sanlamreality.co.za/wealth-sense/setting-up-a-family-budget-that-works/">online templates</a> and apps you can use for budgeting. For instance, <a href="https://www.22seven.com/">22Seven</a> has gained popularity in South Africa due to its compatibility with several financial institutions, including the country’s big five banks. Similarly, <a href="https://www.the-star.co.ke/business/kenya/2021-01-25-budgeting-using-mint-app/">Mint</a> is a popular budgeting tool that is used in Kenya and Nigeria.</p> <p>If you prefer to put pen to paper, some online templates come with <a href="https://www.wonga.co.za/blog/free-budget-template">free printable budgets</a>. Creating your own <a href="https://create.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/articles/how-to-make-excel-budget">Excel spreadsheet</a> is an equally good approach.</p> <p>What matters most is using a tool that you can commit to.</p> <h2>2. Itemising your income and expenses</h2> <p>A budget essentially shows how much you’re spending in relation to how much you’re earning. So once you have selected your budgeting tool, you need to fill in your income and itemise how much you’re spending on each expense in a month. A budget can be considered a cashflow statement because it allows you to track money coming in (income) and money going out (expenses).</p> <p>If you are living within your means, your budget should indicate a surplus – more cash inflows than cash outflows. So budgeting provides an accurate account of your short-term financial position.</p> <h2>3. A realistic account of expenses</h2> <p>When you look at your financial statements, fill your expenses into your budget honestly and accurately. Don’t cheat! Since everyone’s financial situation is different, your budget will also be unique.</p> <p>Even though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting, it should still consider all of your expenses (both regular and intermittent). A general rule of thumb is that if it’s deducted from your account then you should treat it as an expense. This includes payments for housing, medical insurance, fuel, dining out, credit card repayments and even bank fees.</p> <h2>4. Save first, spend later</h2> <p>Now you’ve seen how much you’re spending. Either it’s too much – and you can plan where to cut back – or you have savings at the end of the month.</p> <p>When compiling your budget it’s important to demarcate how much will be in the form of savings. What’s more important is getting into the habit of saving before you spend instead of saving after spending. If you spend first then you’ve deprived yourself of the opportunity to save for a rainy day.</p> <p>Furthermore, <a href="https://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/10231/1/Microsoft_Word_-_submitted_version_3rd_June_201.pdf">research</a> has shown that getting into the habit of saving has a transgenerational effect: it can be considered a cultural value that is passed on from one generation to another. So think of saving as paying yourself first. Once you have done so, you won’t feel guilty for treating yourself because you’ve already done the financially responsible thing by putting your savings aside.</p> <h2>5. Considering assets and liabilities</h2> <p>Once you’ve become comfortable with consistently budgeting, you can take it up a notch by including your assets (everything you own with an economic value) and liabilities (everything you owe) to determine your overall financial position.</p> <p>You can get a clearer picture of your overall financial wellbeing by compiling a list of all your assets, for example your savings and <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/home_equity.asp">home equity</a>, in relation to liabilities (such as bank loans). Knowing your long-term financial position can indicate how financially resilient or vulnerable you are. In the event of a financial emergency, you will know which resources you can draw upon to meet an unexpected expense.</p> <p>By creating a budget (and sticking to it), you can protect yourself and your household from financial shocks. Consider the alternative. Imagine you haven’t budgeted and set savings aside. If a financial emergency were to arise, your next best bet would be to borrow the funds you need. You’d have to come up with a plan to repay what you’d borrowed while also building your savings.</p> <h2>A healthy habit</h2> <p>Getting into the habit of budgeting isn’t easy, especially if you haven’t done it before or you’re intimidated by the process. But, as the expression goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Think of budgeting as taking a small but important step towards reclaiming control over your finances and improving your financial well-being.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/214861/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, Assistant Professor in Finance and Financial Planning, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/battling-to-make-ends-meet-financial-planning-expert-offers-5-tips-on-how-to-build-your-budget-214861">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

6 major benefits of doing yoga every day, from experts

<h2>Positive effects of yoga</h2> <p>Sometimes it’s the simplest daily practice that can have the biggest impact on your health, and yoga is proof of that. Although most forms of yoga aren’t considered to be as intense as other workout regimens (think your average cycling class!), practising yoga on a daily basis has been scientifically demonstrated to help you mentally and physically. Through breath work, meditation and holding poses that increase strength and flexibility, the body and mind reap benefits from yoga that positively impact your long-term health. It’s no wonder people have been practising yoga for over 5000 years, and that the number of Australians practising yoga doubled between 2008 and 2017 to over two million, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.</p> <p>In order to get the full scope of what practising yoga daily can really do for your body, we spoke with several experts who have seen the ways yoga has positively benefited their students, patients… and even themselves.</p> <p><a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-yoga/mats?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Keen to try? You’ll need a mat. There’s a range of mats to suit every yoga level, check out these we recommend.</a></p> <h2>Yoga assists with mood regulation</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_getty2.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>Yoga teacher, Jenni Tarma, shares, “We have a wealth of research demonstrating that a regular mindfulness practice – the act of paying attention to the sensation in the body, thoughts and emotions without judgment – can reduce stress and help us to feel calmer, more productive, and generally more even-keeled in our daily lives.”</p> <p>After evaluating yoga history and research, one 2014 review published in Frontiers in Human Neouroscience concluded that regular yoga practice can help facilitate self-regulation (the ability to understand and manage your behaviour and reactions). Another study of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 found that practising yoga positively benefited emotional regulation and self-esteem. “Movement releases beneficial neurotransmitters in the brain, which helps us feel good as well as assist in mood regulation,” says yoga instructor, Evan Lawrence. “One of the things that I like about yoga specifically is that there is simultaneously a focus on physical movement and breathing.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/23-instant-mood-boosters-you-wont-want-to-live-without" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Don’t miss these instant mood boosters you won’t want to live without.</a></p> <h2>Yoga builds up your core strength</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_shutterstock3.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>Personal trainer and yoga teacher, Gina Newton, says, “From a physical perspective, yoga is so great for increasing our core strength, which should be a non-negotiable part of every human’s workout.” Newton adds, “We all need our core – and especially women who have been pregnant or had children, our core strength is something we need to care for and nurture to hold us up.”</p> <p>According to Harvard Medical School, a stronger core benefits the body in multiple ways, including providing better posture, balance, stability, relief for lower back pain, and support through daily tasks like cleaning, working, and athletic activities or exercise.</p> <p>Wearing comfortable yoga gear will help you get the most out of your workout. <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-apparel/apparel?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Check out these yoga clothes from Gaiam.</a></p> <h2>Yoga reduces stress</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_getty4.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>“Yoga and meditation are powerful tools for stress resilience and strengthening mental health,” says holistic healthcare practitioner and yoga instructor, Nicole Renée Matthews.  “Doing yoga regularly promotes mental clarity and calmness, centres and relaxes the mind, helps to relieve stress patterns and anxiety, and boosts concentration and focus.”</p> <p>One 2010 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that practising yoga can improve mood and decrease anxiety even more than a regular walking practice after participants finished a 12-week program. Researchers have also found that the breath-taking techniques involved with yoga can be part of what benefits decreased anxiety during practice.</p> <p>“Breath awareness, another key component of yoga, has been shown to reduce physiological markers of stress, especially when using techniques such as ‘belly breathing’ – breathing deeply so that the abdomen expands, rather than exclusively using a shallow chest breath – and elongating the exhalation,” says Tarma. “These techniques help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn leads to less anxiety, jitteriness, and improved sleep; all things that can improve our mental health on a day-to-day basis.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/mental-health/10-science-backed-ways-to-lower-your-stress-this-instant-really" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Don’t miss these science-backed ways to lower your stress this instant (really!).</a></p> <h2>Yoga improves brain health</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_getty5.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>According to associate professor of psychiatry, Dr Gail Saltz, practising yoga “improves overall blood flow to the body, including the brain, [which is] helpful for cognition and memory.”</p> <p>One 2019 review published in Brain Plasticity concluded that behavioural interventions like yoga can help “mitigate age-related and neurodegenerative decline” due to the positive effects a daily practice has on different parts of the functioning brain, like the hippocampus (which plays a major role in learning and memory) and the prefrontal cortex (cognitive control functions).</p> <p>Staying hydrated is key to maintaining optimum brain health. <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/takeya/water-bottles-actives-range?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">These drink bottles can help you keep your water intake up throughout the day.</a></p> <h2>Yoga improves flexibility and mobility</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_shutterstock6.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>“Physically, daily yoga practice allows us to engage our muscles and move through larger ranges of joint motion than we do typically moving through life,” says Lawrence. “This helps to keep us limber and flexible.”</p> <p>“Dedicated, daily yoga practice helps with flexibility and strength, which can help improve your posture, as well as balance,” says yoga instructor, Samantha Hoff. “On the physical side, it also helps with joint mobility since you’ll take your joints through most – or all – of their ranges of motion.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/12-best-yoga-poses-to-strengthen-bones" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Here are the best yoga poses to strengthen bones.</a></p> <h2>Yoga strengthens muscle and endurance</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_getty7.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>“From a musculoskeletal perspective,” says Tarma, “yoga loads our bodies and joints in a wide variety of positions and scenarios: think longer static holds in poses that challenge our tissues’ endurance, or controlled transitions between shapes that develop strength, control and coordination. These different facets of our movement capabilities all contribute to better overall function and load-tolerance capacity. As an added bonus, because most styles of yoga are bodyweight only and move at a very moderate speed, yoga is also a generally very accessible and safe movement modality.”</p> <p>Yoga is the ultimate self-care activity. <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-yoga/accessories/27-73312-gaiam-performance-hold-everything-yoga-backpack-bag?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Whether you do it at a studio or in the park, this handy yoga backpack bag stores everything you need for a calm yoga workout.</a></p> <p><strong>This article, written by Kiersten Hickman, originally appeared on</strong><strong> <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/6-major-benefits-of-doing-yoga-every-day-from-experts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</strong></p> <p><em>Images: Shutterstock | Getty</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

Why is gluten-free bread so expensive? A food supply chain expert explains

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/flavio-macau-998456">Flavio Macau</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p>Before the cost of living hit Australian families hard, a group of consumers were already paying top dollar for their staples. Whether it be gluten free, dairy free or lactose free, people with special dietary requirements are used to spending more at the supermarket checkout.</p> <p>A 2016 study from the University of Wollongong found that Australians were <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1747-0080.12171">paying up to 17% more for a gluten-free diet</a>.</p> <p>Current examples are easy to find. A <a href="https://www.coles.com.au/product/coles-white-bread-650g-4901345">white sandwich loaf at Coles</a> costs A$2.40 (or A$0.37 per 100g), whereas <a href="https://www.coles.com.au/product/coles-i'm-free-from-white-loaf-500g-3216673">the cheapest gluten-free option</a> costs $5.70 (or $1.14 per 100g). That’s over three times as much. Prices are closer comparing Coles Full Cream Milk at A$1.50 per litre with Coles Lactose Free Lite Milk at A$1.60, the exception that confirms the rule.</p> <p>So why are allergen-free products more expensive?</p> <h2>Is it the ingredients?</h2> <p>If manufacturers pay more for ingredients, this is usually reflected in the price of the final product. Regular and gluten-free bread share many common ingredients, but there is a substantial change where wheat flour is replaced by gluten-free flour. This ingredient may cost manufacturers around two times as much given the uniqueness of gluten-free grains, seeds, and nuts. These special ingredients are not as abundant or easy to process as wheat, and are also a bit more difficult to buy in very large scale.</p> <p>For a simple reference, compare <a href="https://www.coles.com.au/product/coles-white-plain-flour-1kg-5881232">regular</a> and <a href="https://www.coles.com.au/product/coles-i'm-free-from-plain-flour-gluten-free-500g-2478197">gluten-free flour</a> at Coles.</p> <p>Gluten, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jgh.13703">a complex mixture of hundreds of related but distinct proteins</a>, has unique properties. It is a binding agent that improves texture in recipes. Gluten-free bread therefore needs extra help to, literally, hold it together. Additional items such as thickeners, tapioca and maize starches are added to gluten-free recipes to improve viscosity and keep baked items in shape. That means a longer ingredient list and a slightly more complex manufacturing process.</p> <p>So, from an ingredient perspective, gluten-free bread costs more than regular bread. This applies for other allergen-free products as well. But with so many common ingredients, it is reasonable to say that this is not the main explanation.</p> <h2>Is it manufacturing and transporting?</h2> <p>A substantial part of price differences between regular and allergen-free foods comes from <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/economiesofscale.asp">economies of scale</a>. Regular products are manufactured in very large quantities, while allergen-free products involve much smaller volumes.</p> <p>Bulk buying from large suppliers gets you bigger discounts. The more machines in a factory, the cheaper it is to run them. Larger outputs coming from the same place mean smaller costs for each individual product. Given that you have fixed costs to pay anyway, size is king.</p> <p>You pay the same amount for a grain mill regardless of whether you grind one kilo or one tonne of grains a day. Sure, you spend more on electricity or gas, but those are <a href="https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/accounting/fixed-and-variable-costs/">variable costs</a>.</p> <p>Then, there is the need for rigorous quality control. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has a detailed <a href="https://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/sh-proxy/en/?lnk=1&amp;url=https%253A%252F%252Fworkspace.fao.org%252Fsites%252Fcodex%252FStandards%252FCXC%2B80-2020%252FCXC_080e.pdf">code of practice on food allergen management for food business operators</a>, covering harvesting, handling, storage, transportation, packaging, and more. The <a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/food-standards-code">Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code</a> also sets specific standards.</p> <p>Deep cleaning machines, thoroughly checking that standards are met, and scrapping whole batches when they are not makes manufacturing allergen-free products more complex and expensive. The <a href="https://www.health.wa.gov.au/-/media/Files/Corporate/general-documents/food/PDF/DOHComplianceandEnforcementPolicyVersion3.pdf">implications for non-compliance</a> vary in severity, from a simple recall to a costly infringement notice, plus <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10574315/">reputational damage to consumer trust</a>.</p> <p>It is hard to exactly measure the impact of economies of scale and quality costs on the price of allergen-free products. Each manufacturer will have its own challenges and solutions. But it is reasonable to say a considerable chunk of the difference we see when comparing gluten-free bread with its regular counterpart comes from these factors.</p> <p>Transportation costs follow a similar rule. If it is easier and quicker to fill your trucks with regular products, while allergen-free products have a hard time making a full load, there are disadvantages in the latter.</p> <h2>Is it the marketing strategy?</h2> <p>The final consideration on allergen-free food prices has to do with competition and willingness to pay.</p> <p>A quick search on Coles’ website shows 276 results for “bread” once you remove the 42 items that are gluten-free. That means that there are many more brands and products competing for bread consumers than for gluten-free bread consumers. That’s over six to one! This means customers with dietary restrictions are at a disadvantage as they are beholden to the limited options on offer. As noted by the Australian Competition &amp; Consumer Commission, “<a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/competition-and-exemptions/competition-and-anti-competitive-behaviour">competition leads to lower prices and more choice for consumers</a>”.</p> <p>Also, fewer allergen-free products make it to the “own brand” list. Australians are <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/money/costs/coles-woolworths-ownbrand-products-booming-on-back-of-costofliving-crisis/news-story/d0be8b8d6e98c0a6477959cd83da17ad">relying more on these when facing the cost-of-living crisis</a>.</p> <p>There is also the <a href="https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/willingness-to-pay">willingness to pay</a>, where consumers pay more for products deemed as having higher value. <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/obr.13525">Research</a> shows that on average consumers are willing to pay 30% more for food products that they perceive to be healthier.</p> <p>Manufacturers and retailers more often than not will capitalise on that, increasing their profit margins for allergen-free products.</p> <h2>4 tips for saving money if you have allergies</h2> <p>People with dietary requirements looking to ease the cost of their weekly grocery shop should use the same strategies as every savvy consumer:</p> <ul> <li>research prices</li> <li>buy larger quantities where possible</li> <li>keep a keen eye on price reduction and items on sale</li> <li>consider replacing products tagged “allergen-free” with alternatives from other categories, such as going for rice instead of gluten-free pasta in a dish.</li> </ul> <p>In the long run, if more customers choose allergen-free products it could lead to more volume and competition, bringing prices down. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223648/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/flavio-macau-998456"><em>Flavio Macau</em></a><em>, Associate Dean - School of Business and Law, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-is-gluten-free-bread-so-expensive-a-food-supply-chain-expert-explains-223648">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

Experts shed new light on Samantha Murphy case

<p>A panel of experts have shed new light on the case of missing mum Samantha Murphy. </p> <p>The mother-of-three went missing on February 4 after going for her usual morning run in a local park in Ballarat. </p> <p>Despite major search efforts from the missing persons squad, specialists and the local Ballarat community, she has still not been found, and now a panel of experts have gathered to discuss the possibilities of what could've happened to Murphy. </p> <p>Former Victorian detective Damian Marrett, criminal psychologist Dr Peter Ashkar, missing persons specialist Valentine Smith and cyber expert Nigel Phair discussed a number of different scenarios in Channel Nine's show <em>Under Investigation </em>on Wednesday night. </p> <p>“The idea that Samantha has actually wilfully left the family is just unfathomable and just implausible to me,” Dr Ashkar said. </p> <p>Presenter Liz Hayes, who spoke to mine shaft explorer Raymond Shaw said that there's a possibility Murphy's body has been buried in one of the abandoned mine shafts around Ballarat. </p> <p>“I think there could be anywhere between 4000 and 5000 gold mines just underneath the town," Shaw told Hayes. </p> <p>The panel agreed that the most likely scenario was that Murphy’s body had been dumped in a mineshaft after meeting with foul play, as they believe that there was "no way" Murphy fell down a mineshaft by accident, as the locals all know how to navigate the terrain. </p> <p>“They could be a great place to conceal a body or a crime after the fact … and you’d probably never find it,” Marrett said. </p> <p>Dr Ashkar added that the absence of any trace of Murphy could point to her having been attacked by a “psychopathic predator … who would know that area, like the back of their hand”.</p> <p>The panel also considered a potential new clue, the possible sighting of a damaged vehicle, which was alluded to in a <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/major-development-in-search-for-samantha-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">police statement </a>requesting for new information about the case. </p> <p>The experts said that if there was a damaged car in the area, it could mean that Murphy was kidnapped at the 7km point of her run and could still be alive. </p> <p>“I would still like to believe the very real possibility that it’s a kidnapping and she’s still alive,” Dr Ashkar said. </p> <p>“That’s my hope. But I absolutely feel that whoever has taken her and abducted, they are very systematic and organised and knew very well what they were doing.”</p> <p>Marrett added that the police’s interest in the damaged car was significant.</p> <p>“They didn’t just say a car, they said a damaged car, it’s so specific,” he said.</p> <p>“So was that damage caused with this incident or was that damage because someone saw a damaged car leave?”</p> <p><em>Image: Nine / Facebook</em></p>

Legal

Placeholder Content Image

Body language expert breaks down royal family's Christmas card

<p>A body language expert has broken down the subtle meanings and messages hidden in the royal family's Christmas card. </p> <p>On Monday, Prince William and Kate Middleton shared their 2023 Christmas card portrait, which features the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children in a charming black and white photo. </p> <p>While their family portrait was met with <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/family-pets/blah-brutal-reactions-to-royal-family-s-2023-christmas-card" target="_blank" rel="noopener">mixed reactions</a>, royal fans wasted no time in praising the family for their charming photo. </p> <p>Now, body language experts have dived deep into the real meaning behind almost unnoticeable actions taken by the royals in the pic. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C0pf0IXNv15/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C0pf0IXNv15/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by The Prince and Princess of Wales (@princeandprincessofwales)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Body language analyst Judi James told <em><a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/royals/24997829/kate-william-christmas-card-body-language-signal/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener" data-ylk="slk:The Sun;elm:context_link;itc:0" data-rapid_p="26" data-v9y="1">The Sun</a></em> that, "The strong sense of tight, loving ‘uniformed’ grouping and the stark monochrome, plus the relaxed and confident body language looks like the emotional equivalent of them having a moat and drawbridge around them."</p> <p>Judi went on to say that their choice of relaxed outfits - jeans and white button-up shirts - would be an intentional choice as they show "the strength and total confidence of the pared-down family brand here, without all the trimmings and trappings of their royal status."</p> <p>As she notes, "We know they look superb in formalwear and royal regalia but this is the casual and much more relatable version."</p> <p>Judi also claims that Prince William's slight head tilt "suggests a desire to be liked", while "Kate leans into William’s torso to make this a subtly romantic pose too."</p> <p>Meanwhile, according to Judi, the position of Princess Charlotte right in the middle of the family could be intentional, who says "Charlotte looks so much like the late Queen and this central status-rich pose and beautiful smile are like echoes of Elizabeth when she was young."</p> <p>"This effect doesn’t look deliberate but it is still a rather moving message from this family Christmas card."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

How to make the perfect pavlova, according to chemistry experts

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nathan-kilah-599082">Nathan Kilah</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chloe-taylor-1400788">Chloe Taylor</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a></em></p> <p>The pavlova is a summer icon; just a few simple ingredients can be transformed into a beautifully flavoured and textured dessert.</p> <p>But despite its simplicity, there’s a surprising amount of chemistry involved in making a pavlova. Knowing what’s happening in each step is a sure-fire way to make yours a success.</p> <p>So exactly what does it take to make the perfect pavlova? Let us break it down for you.</p> <h2>Egg whites</h2> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/eight-cracking-facts-about-eggs-150797">Egg white</a> is basically a mixture of proteins in water. Two of these proteins, ovalbumin and ovomucin, are the key to forming a perfect foamy meringue mixture.</p> <p>Whipping the egg whites agitates the proteins and disrupts their structure, causing them to unfold so the protein’s interior surface is exposed, in a process <a href="https://theconversation.com/sunny-side-up-can-you-really-fry-an-egg-on-the-footpath-on-a-hot-day-172616">known as denaturing</a>. These surfaces then join with one another to trap air bubbles and turn into a stable foam.</p> <p>Egg yolk must be completely removed for this process to work. Yolk is mostly made of fat molecules, which would destabilise the protein network and pop the air bubbles. It only takes a trace amount of fat, or even just a greasy bowl, to disrupt foam formation.</p> <p>You should always whip your egg whites in a clean glass or metal bowl. Plastic bowls are more likely to hold leftover grease.</p> <h2>Sugar</h2> <p>A traditional pavlova uses sugar – a lot of it – to provide texture and flavour. The ratio of sugar to egg white will differ between recipes.</p> <p>The first thing to remember is that adding more sugar will give you a drier and crispier texture, whereas less sugar will lead to a softer and chewier pavlova that won’t keep as long.</p> <p>The second thing is the size of the sugar crystals. The larger they are, the longer they’ll need to be whipped to dissolve, and the greater the chance you will overwork the proteins in your meringue. Powdered icing sugar (not icing mixture) is preferable to caster or granulated sugar.</p> <p>If you do happen to overbeat your meringue (which may end up looking clumpy and watery) you can try to save it by adding another egg white.</p> <h2>Acid</h2> <p>Many pavlova recipes call for adding cream of tartar or vinegar. Cream of tartar is also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, which you may have seen in the form of crystals at the <a href="https://theconversation.com/louis-pasteurs-scientific-discoveries-in-the-19th-century-revolutionized-medicine-and-continue-to-save-the-lives-of-millions-today-191395">bottom of a wine glass</a>.</p> <p>These acids act as a stabilising agent for the meringue by aiding in the unfolding of the egg white proteins. More isn’t always better, though. Using too much stabiliser can affect the taste and texture, so use it sparingly.</p> <h2>Heat</h2> <p>Cooking a pavlova requires a very slow oven for specific chemical reasons. Namely, egg white proteins gel at temperatures above 60°C, setting the meringue.</p> <p>At higher temperatures a chemical reaction known as the <a href="https://theconversation.com/kitchen-science-from-sizzling-brisket-to-fresh-baked-bread-the-chemical-reaction-that-makes-our-favourite-foods-taste-so-good-58577">Maillard reaction</a> takes place in which proteins and sugars react to form new flavourful compounds. We can thank the Maillard reaction for many delicious foods including <a href="https://theconversation.com/brewing-a-great-cup-of-coffee-depends-on-chemistry-and-physics-84473">roasted coffee</a>, toast and <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-makes-smoky-charred-barbecue-taste-so-good-the-chemistry-of-cooking-over-an-open-flame-184206">seared steak</a>.</p> <p>However, excessive Maillard reactions are undesirable for a pavlova. An oven that’s too hot will turn your meringue brown and give it a “caramelised” flavour. Recipes calling for pavlova to be left in the oven overnight may actually overcook it.</p> <p>At the same time, you don’t want to accidentally undercook your pavlova – especially since uncooked eggs are often responsible for <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-avoid-food-borne-illness-a-nutritionist-explains-153185">food poisoning</a>. To kill dangerous bacteria, including salmonella, the pavlova’s spongy centre must reach <a href="https://foodsafety.asn.au/eggs/">temperatures above 72°C</a>.</p> <p>An alternative is to use pasteurised egg whites, which are briefly heated to a very high temperature to kill any pathogens. But this processing may also affect the egg white’s whippability.</p> <h2>Substitute ingredients</h2> <p>People love pavlova, and nobody should have to miss out. Luckily they don’t have to.</p> <p>If you want to <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-taste-for-sweet-an-anthropologist-explains-the-evolutionary-origins-of-why-youre-programmed-to-love-sugar-173197">limit your sugar intake</a>, you can make your meringue using sweeteners such as <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-difference-between-sugar-other-natural-sweeteners-and-artificial-sweeteners-a-food-chemist-explains-sweet-science-172571">powdered erythritol or monk fruit</a>. But, if you do, you may want to add some extra stabiliser such as cornflour, arrowroot starch, or a pinch of xanthan gum to maintain the classic texture.</p> <p>Also, if you want a vegan pavlova, you can turn to the chickpea instead of the chicken! <a href="https://review.jove.com/t/56305/composition-properties-aquafaba-water-recovered-from-commercially">Aquafaba</a> – the water collected from tinned or soaked beans – contains proteins and carbohydrates that give it emulsifying, foaming and even thickening properties. Egg-free pavlova recipes typically replace one egg white with about two tablespoons of aquafaba.</p> <p>And for those of you who don’t do gluten, pavlova can easily be made <a href="https://theconversation.com/gluten-free-diet-is-expensive-socially-challenging-for-those-with-celiac-disease-and-wheat-allergy-155861">gluten-free</a> by using certain stabilising agents.</p> <p>All that’s left is to get creative with your toppings and decide what to do with those leftover yolks!<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/196485/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nathan-kilah-599082"><em>Nathan Kilah</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chloe-taylor-1400788">Chloe Taylor</a>, Research Fellow - PhD candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-make-the-perfect-pavlova-according-to-chemistry-experts-196485">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

Placeholder Content Image

12 expert ways to manage stress at airports

<p><strong><em>Betsy Goldberg writes for <a href="http://blog.virtuoso.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Virtuoso Luxury Traveller</span></a>, the blog of a <a href="http://www.virtuoso.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">global luxury travel network</span></a>, and she enjoys nothing more than taking a holiday.</em></strong></p> <p>Airports should be happy places. They’re the beginning of a journey, either to a new place, a vacation, business meetings, time with family and friends, or back home.</p> <p>If you’ve spent even a brief amount of time inside an airport, though, you know that’s not the case. They can be stressful places with people running to and fro trying to make flights. All while dealing with their day-to-day life via their phone. No surprise that a psychologist has even developed an air travel stress scale.</p> <p>Air travel stress gets to virtually all of us. But it doesn’t have to. How can you reduce the drama?</p> <p><strong>1. Put things in context</strong></p> <p>A lot of reducing air travel stress comes simply from having a good mindset.</p> <p>The most important thing is to start with the right attitude, says Rishi Piparaiya, author of Aisle Be Damned: “We’re talking about an extremely complicated industry, where millions of people fly in the skies in metal tubes at the speed of sound. Sure, something may go wrong, but our ancestors would spend a lifetime to make the journey we make in half a day.”</p> <p>Here’s another take from Brent Bowen, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He noted that in 2013 the overall performance of U.S. airlines hit its highest point in 24 years.</p> <p>“The number of customer complaints has gone down,” he says. “Mishandled baggage has gone down and on-time performance has improved. So technically, based solely on the data, (the flight experience) has improved over the last 25 years substantially.”</p> <p><strong>2. When to fly</strong></p> <p>Leisure travellers tend to fly on weekends. Business travellers are crowding airports Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Therefore, book your flights for the quieter days of Tuesday and Wednesday when you can.</p> <p>Book an early-morning flight if possible to avoid more air travel stress. Airlines are less likely to have delays first thing in the day.</p> <p><strong>3. Use a packing list</strong></p> <p>This prevents “Oh no!” moments at the airport. If you’re not even at security yet and you already think you’re missing something and don’t have the time to go get it, the rest of the airport experience probably won’t be great.</p> <p>Avoid that kind of air travel stress before you get to the airport by starting with a packing list. Also, learn how to effectively pack a bag.</p> <p><strong>4. Check in promptly</strong></p> <p>Airlines let you check in online 24 hours before your flight. Do that to avoid lineups at the airport. Another bonus: it may help prevent you from being bumped off an oversold flight.</p> <p><strong>5. Carry on what you can</strong></p> <p>The advantages: less to potentially lose in your checked luggage. No baggage fees. And a faster exit from the airport when you arrive.</p> <p>Always carry on essentials like keys, medications, valuables and anything critical for business meetings. You don’t want to arrive in the Caribbean and be waiting days for everything you need to actually enjoy the Caribbean.</p> <p>So remember that air travel is actually much more effective than almost any human mode of transport in history. And in the past few decades, the experience has technically only improved. Take a deep breath when that air travel stress hits you.</p> <p><strong>6. The early bird approach</strong></p> <p>People fall into very distinct camps on this. Earlier tends to be better (especially around peak travel times like holidays). If you know security lines might be longer, why gamble and add more air travel stress?</p> <p><strong>7. The full charge</strong></p> <p>Phone batteries are getting better as technology continues to develop. And more airports are offering outlets and charging stations. But always get to the airport on a full charge. If you encounter a hiccup, you’ll need your device as a resource.</p> <p><strong>8. What to wear</strong></p> <p>Layers will help you navigate varying temperatures inside the airport and on the plane. Wear comfortable clothes you can move in, in case of a last-minute dash to a connecting flight. Wrinkle-free clothing is great, both for the journey to your destination as well as your trip itself.</p> <p>As far as footwear goes, wear something easy to slide on/off to get through security faster. In larger airports, you’re likely in for a big walk to and from your gate, so comfort is a must as well.</p> <p><strong>9. Entertainment</strong></p> <p>Unless you’ve booked an entire row on the plane, your seatmates are a random act of chance. They could be great – and not bother you. Or they could be challenging in many ways.</p> <p>So load up on distractions. Those include magazines, books, e-books, movies, TV shows and work you need to complete. They’ll also help in case of delays while you’re still in the terminal.</p> <p><strong>10. Your fellow passengers</strong></p> <p>Airports are amazing places for people-watching. If you stop at an airport bar or restaurant, you can usually strike up a conversation easily. You might be sitting next to someone from halfway around the world. You don’t get that chance every day, so take advantage of it.</p> <p>Want a conversation starter? Talk about the fastest way to board passengers. You’ll make some new friends and relieve your mutual air travel stress.</p> <p><strong>11. Airport lounges</strong></p> <p>Another place to meet new people: an airport lounge. You’ll await your flight in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. And you’ll enjoy peace and quiet, comfortable seating, food, drinks and reading materials.</p> <p>First-class and business-class travellers and elite frequent flyers have access to their airline’s lounge. Also, certain credit card holders enjoy complimentary access. For everyone else, there’s a day pass. A pass at an independent lounge will run you about $30 to $50.</p> <p><strong>12. Advisors as air travel stress relief</strong></p> <p>There are dozens of reasons why working with a professional travel advisor is a good idea. See here for real-life stories from actual travellers. One of those: an advisor can reduce air travel stress. Your advisor will work with you on itineraries, the best flight times, and any adjustments. If something crops up at the airport, you have a trusted resource one call away.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Travel Tips

Placeholder Content Image

How to get rid of sciatica pain: solutions from back experts

<p><strong>The scoop on sciatica pain</strong></p> <p>Fun fact: The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. It runs from the lower back down each side of your body, along the back of the hips, butt cheeks, and knees, down the back of the calf, and into the foot. It provides both sensory and motor nerve function to the legs and feet.</p> <p>Not-so-fun fact: Sometimes this nerve can get compressed in the spine at one of the roots – where it branches off the spinal cord – and cause pain that radiates down the length of the nerve. This is a dreaded condition known as sciatica. It is estimated that between 10 and 40 percent of people will experience sciatica in their lifetime.</p> <p>“Sciatica is the body telling you the sciatic nerve is unhappy,” says E. Quinn Regan, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon. “When the nerve is compressed at the root, it becomes inflamed, causing symptoms,” Dr Regan says. These symptoms can range from mild to debilitating.</p> <p>While sciatica can often resolve on its own, easing symptoms and feeling better usually requires some attention and careful behaviour modifications. Rarely, you may need more medical intervention to recover fully.</p> <p>Here’s everything you need to know about sciatica, including symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, how it’s treated, and what you can do to prevent it from recurring.</p> <p><strong>Symptoms of sciatica</strong></p> <p>Sciatica is quite literally a pain in the butt. The telltale symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates along the nerve, usually on the outside of the butt cheek and down the back of the leg. It usually only happens on one side of the body at a time. Sciatica doesn’t necessarily cause lower back pain, though it can.</p> <p>Dr Regan says that people with sciatica describe the pain as electric, burning, or stabbing, and in more severe cases, it can also be associated with numbness or weakness in the leg. If sciatica causes significant muscle weakness, to the point of losing function, and/or the pain is so bad you can’t function, it’s time to get immediate help, Dr Regan says.</p> <p>Another symptom that warrants a trip to the ER and immediate medical intervention: bowel or bladder incontinence. “That means there’s a massive compression, and the pressure is so severe it’s harming the nerves that go to the bowel and bladder,” says orthopaedic surgeon Dr Brian A. Cole. This is rare, but when it happens, it’s imperative to decompress the nerve immediately, he says.</p> <p><strong>The main causes of sciatica</strong></p> <p>The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or slipped disc. A herniated or slipped disc happens when pressure forces one of the discs that cushion each vertebra in the spine to move out of place or rupture. Usually it’s caused when you lift something heavy and hurt your back, or after repetitive bending or twisting of the lower back from a sport or a physically demanding job.</p> <p>Sciatica also can be caused by:</p> <ul> <li>a bone spur (osteophyte), which can form as a result of osteoarthritis</li> <li>narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis), which happens with normal wear-and-tear of the spine and is more common in people over 60</li> <li>spondylolisthesis, a condition where one of your vertebrae slips out of place</li> <li>a lower back or pelvic muscle spasm or any sort of inflammation that presses on the nerve root</li> </ul> <p>Some people are born with back problems that lead to spinal stenosis at an earlier age. Other potential, yet rare, causes of sciatic nerve compression include tumours and abscesses.</p> <p><strong>Could it be piriformis syndrome?</strong></p> <p>Something known as piriformis syndrome can also cause sciatica-like symptoms, though it is not considered true sciatica. The piriformis is a muscle that runs along the outside of the hip and butt and plays an important role in hip extension and leg rotation.</p> <p>Piriformis syndrome is an overuse injury that’s common in runners, who repetitively strain this muscle, leading to inflammation and irritation. Because the muscle is so close to the sciatic nerve, piriformis syndrome can compress the nerve and cause a similar tingling, radiating pain as sciatica. The difference is that this pain is not caused by compression at the nerve root, but rather, irritation or pressure at some point along the length of the nerve.</p> <p><strong>Sciatica risk factors </strong></p> <p>Anyone can end up with a herniated disc and ultimately sciatica, but some people are more at risk than others. The biggest risk factor is age. “The discs begin to age at about age 30, and when this happens they can develop defects,” Dr Regan says. These defects slowly increase the risk of a disc slipping or rupturing.</p> <p>Men are three times more likely than women to have a herniated disc, Dr Regan says. Being overweight or obese also increases your chance of injuring a disc. A physically demanding job, regular strenuous exercise, osteoarthritis in the spine, and a history of back injury can also increase your risk. Sitting all day doesn’t help either, Dr Cole says. “You put more stress on your back biomechanically sitting than anything else you do.”</p> <p>Certain muscle weaknesses and imbalances can also make you more prone to disc injury and, consequently, sciatica. “People with weak core muscles and instability around the spine might be more prone to this since the muscles need to stabilise the joints of the vertebrae in which the nerves exit,” says Theresa Marko, an orthopaedic physical therapist.</p> <p><strong>How sciatica is diagnosed</strong></p> <p>If your symptoms suggest sciatica, your doctor will do a physical exam to check your strength, reflexes and sensation. A test called a straight leg raise can also test for sciatica, Dr Regan says. How it’s done: Patients lie face up on the floor, legs extended, and the clinician slowly lifts one leg up. At a certain point, it may trigger sciatica symptoms. (The test can also be done sitting down.)</p> <p>Depending on how severe the pain is and how long you’ve had symptoms, doctors may also do some scans (MRI or CT) on your spine to figure out what’s causing the sciatica and how many nerve roots are impacted.</p> <p>Scans can also confirm there isn’t something else mimicking the symptoms of sciatica. Muscle spasms, abscesses, hematomas (a collection of blood outside a blood vessel), tumours and Potts disease (spinal tuberculosis) can all cause similar symptoms.</p> <p><strong>Managing mild to moderate sciatica </strong></p> <p>Resting, avoiding anything that strains your back, icing the area that hurts, and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen, are the first-line treatment options for sciatica, Dr Regan says. If you have a physically demanding job that requires you to lift heavy things, taking some time off, if at all possible, will help.</p> <p>While it’s important to avoid activities that might make things worse, you do want to keep moving, says Marko. “Research now advises against bed rest. You want to move without overdoing it.”</p> <p>A physical therapist can help you figure out what movements are safe and beneficial to do. For example, certain motions – squatting, performing a deadlift, or doing anything that involves bending forward at the waist – can be really aggravating. Light spine and hamstring stretching, low-impact activities like biking and swimming, and core work can help. “In general, we need the nerve to calm down a bit and to strengthen the muscles of your spine, pelvis and hips,” Marko says.</p> <p>“Within a week to 10 days, about 80 percent of patients with mild to moderate sciatica are going to be doing much better,” Dr Regan says. Within four to six weeks, you should be able to return to your regular activities – with the caveat that you’ll need to be careful about straining your back to avoid triggering sciatica again.</p> <p><strong>Treating severe sciatica</strong></p> <p>If you’re trying the treatment options for mild to moderate sciatica and your symptoms worsen or just don’t get better, you may need a higher level of treatment.</p> <p>If OTC pain relievers aren’t cutting it, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant like cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril).</p> <p>An epidural steroid injection near the nerve root can reduce inflammation and provide a huge relief for some people with sciatica. The results are varied, and some people may need more than one injection to really feel relief.</p> <p>Surgery is usually a last resort, only considered once all of the conservative and minimally invasive options have been exhausted. Dr Regan notes that a small percentage of people with sciatica end up needing surgery – these are usually patients who have severe enough sciatica that their primary care doctors have referred them to spinal specialists. And only about a third of patients who see spinal specialists may end up having surgery, he says.</p> <p>Surgeries to relieve disc compression are typically quick and done on an outpatient basis, according to Dr Cole.</p> <p><strong>Preventing sciatica in the future</strong></p> <p>“Once you have a back issue, you have a higher chance of having a back issue in the future,” Dr Regan says. Which means that your first bout of sciatica isn’t likely to be your last. It’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of sciatica striking again.</p> <p>Building core strength is key. “Think of your midsection as a box, and you need to target all sides,” Marko says. “By this, I mean abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, glutes and lateral hip muscles.” These muscles all support the spine, so the stronger they are, the better the spine can handle whatever is thrown its way.</p> <p>If there’s an activity you enjoy that aggravates your back, ditch it for an alternative. For example, running can trigger back pain and sciatica in some people, Dr Regan says. If you’re prone to it, try a new form of cardio that’s gentler on your back, like swimming, biking, or using the elliptical. Even just logging fewer kilometres per week can help reduce your risk.</p> <p>Dr Regan also recommends making sure you learn how to weight train properly. Lifting with the best form possible, learning your limits, and reducing weight when you need to will help keep your back safe from disc injuries.</p> <p>Making small changes to your daily life and workouts can help keep your back healthy and minimise the time you have to waste dealing with sciatica in the future.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/backtips-advice/how-to-get-rid-of-sciatica-pain-solutions-from-back-experts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

Will we still have antibiotics in 50 years? We asked 7 global experts

<p>Almost since antibiotics were <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2937522/#:%7E:text=Since%20the%20introduction%20in%201937,operate%20some%2070%20years%20later.">first discovered</a>, we’ve been aware bacteria can learn how to overcome these medicines, a phenomenon known as antimicrobial resistance.</p> <p>The World Health Organization says we’re currently <a href="https://www.who.int/news/item/20-09-2017-the-world-is-running-out-of-antibiotics-who-report-confirms">losing to the bugs</a>, with resistance increasing and too few new antibiotics in the pipeline. </p> <p>We wanted to know whether experts around the world think we will still have effective antibiotics in 50 years. Seven out of seven experts said yes.</p> <p><strong>Lori Burrows - Biochemist, Canada</strong></p> <p>Yes! Antibiotics are a crucial component of modern medicine, and we can't afford to lose them. Despite the rise of resistance in important pathogens (bugs), and the substantial decrease in new drugs in development, we have multiple tools at our disposal to protect antibiotics. Stewardship - the principle of using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary - is key to maintaining the usefulness of current antibiotics and preventing resistance to new drugs from arising. New diagnostics, such as the rapid tests that became widely available during the pandemic, can inform stewardship efforts, reducing inappropriate antibiotic use for viral diseases.</p> <p>Finally, researchers continue to find creative ways, including the use of powerful artificial intelligence approaches, to identify antimicrobial compounds with new targets or new modes of action. Other promising tactics include using viruses that naturally kill bacteria, stimulating the host's immune system to fight the bacteria, or combining existing antibiotics with molecules that can enhance antibiotic activity by, for example, increasing uptake or blocking resistance.</p> <p><strong>André Hudson - Biochemist, United States</strong></p> <p>Yes. The real question is not whether we will have antibiotics 50 years from now, but what form of antibiotics will be used. Most antibiotics we use today are modelled after natural products isolated from organisms such as fungi and plants. The use of <a href="https://news.mit.edu/2020/artificial-intelligence-identifies-new-antibiotic-0220">AI</a>, machine learning, and other <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/may/25/artificial-intelligence-antibiotic-deadly-superbug-hospital">computational tools</a> to help design novel, unnatural compounds that can circumvent the evolution of antibiotic resistance are only in the very early stages of development.</p> <p>Many of the traditional medicines such as penicillins and other common antibiotics of today which are already waning in efficacy, will probably be of very little use in 50 years. Over time, with the aid of new technology, I predict we will have new medicines to fight bacterial infections.</p> <p><strong>Ray Robins-Browne - Microbiologist, Australia</strong></p> <p>Yes, we will have antibiotics (by which I mean antimicrobial drugs), because people will still get infections despite advances in immunisation and other forms of prevention. Having said this, drugs of the future will be quite different from those we use today, which will have become obsolete well within the next 50 years. The new drugs will have a narrow spectrum, meaning they will be targeted directly at the specific cause of the infection, which we will determine by using rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests, similar to the RATS we currently use to diagnose COVID.</p> <p>Antimicrobials of the future won’t kill bacteria or limit their growth, because this encourages the development of resistance. Instead, they will limit the ability of the bacteria to cause disease or evade our immune systems.</p> <p><strong>Raúl Rivas González - Microbiologist, Spain</strong></p> <p>Yes, but not without effort. Currently, antimicrobial resistance is a leading cause of death globally, and will continue to rise. But in my opinion, there will still be useful antibiotics to combat bacterial infections within 50 years. To achieve this, innovation and investment is required. Artificial intelligence may even be able to help. An example is the compound "RS102895", which eliminates the multi-resistant superbug Acinetobacter baumannii. This was identified through a machine learning algorithm.</p> <p>The future of antibiotics requires substantial changes in the search for new active molecules and in the design of therapies that can eliminate bacteria without developing resistance. We are on the right path. An example is the discovery of clovibactin, recently isolated from uncultured soil bacteria. Clovibactin effectively kills antibiotic-resistant gram-positive bacteria without generating detectable resistance. Future antimicrobial therapy may consist of new antibiotics, viruses that kill bacteria, specific antibodies, drugs that counter antibiotic resistance, and other new technology.</p> <p><strong>Fidelma Fitzpatrick - Microbiologist, United Kingdom</strong></p> <p>Yes, but not many. Without rapid scale-up of measures to curtail the "<a href="https://www.oecd.org/health/embracing-a-one-health-framework-to-fight-antimicrobial-resistance-ce44c755-en.htm">alarming global health threat</a>" of antimicrobial resistance by 2073, there will be few effective antibiotics left to treat sepsis. The <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/covid19.html">Centre for Disease Control</a> has indicated a reversal of progress following the pandemic, when all focus in healthcare, government and society was on COVID. Without an approach targeting people, animals, agri-food systems and the environment, antimicrobial resistance will continue its upward trajectory. <a href="https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/health/publication/drug-resistant-infections-a-threat-to-our-economic-future">Doing nothing</a> is unacceptable – lives will be lost, healthcare expenditure will increase and workforce productivity will suffer.</p> <p>The highest burden of antimicrobial resistance is in <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02724-0/fulltext">low-income countries</a>. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK543407/">Action plans</a> exist in most OECD, European and G20 countries. In all countries plans need to be funded and implemented across all relevant sectors as above. Better integrated data to track antibiotic use and resistance across human and animal health and the environment, in addition to research and development for new antibiotics, vaccines and diagnostics, will be necessary.</p> <p><strong>Juliana Côrrea - Public health expert, Brazil </strong></p> <p>Yes. However, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0188440905002730?via%3Dihub">available data</a> suggest that without a shift in the political agenda towards the control and prevention of antimicrobial resistance, several antibiotics will have lost their utility. The problem of bacterial resistance is not new and the risk of antibiotics becoming ineffective in the face of the evolutionary capacity of bacteria is one of the main problems facing global health. The creation of policies to promote the appropriate use of this resource has not progressed at the same speed as inappropriate use in human and animal health and in agricultural production.</p> <p>The factors that impact antibiotic use are complex and vary according to local contexts. The response to the problem goes far beyond controlling use at the individual level. We must recognise the social, political, and economic dimensions in proposing more effective governance.</p> <p><strong>Yori Yuliandra -  Pharmacist, Indonesia</strong></p> <p>Yes. Despite their <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antimicrobial-resistance">reduced efficacy over time</a>, antibiotics continue to be produced every year. Researchers are tirelessly working to develop new and more effective antibiotics. And researchers are actively exploring combinations of antibiotics to enhance their efficacy. While antimicrobial resistance is rising, researchers have been making remarkable progress in addressing this issue. They have developed innovative antibiotic classes such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.4155/fmc-2016-0041">FtsZ inhibitors</a> which can inhibit cell division, a process necessary for bacteria to multiply. <a href="https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240021303">Clinical trials</a> are currently taking place.</p> <p>A deeper understanding of the molecular aspects of bacterial resistance has led to the discovery of new treatment strategies, such as the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1039/D2MD00263A">inhibition of key enzymes</a> that play a pivotal role in bugs becoming resistant. And <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02586-0">advances in computer technology</a> have greatly accelerated drug discovery and development efforts, offering hope for the rapid discovery of new antibiotics and treatment strategies.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/will-we-still-have-antibiotics-in-50-years-we-asked-7-global-experts-214950" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

No more brown leaves: sage advice from a gardening expert

<p>We’ve all been there before. We’re watering our seemingly healthy houseplant when suddenly there it is: a tinge of brown on the plant’s leaf. Yikes. But what do brown tips on leaves mean for your plant, and what can you do to make them go away? Read on to find out.</p> <p><strong>Lack of water or humidity</strong></p> <p>If your plant is sporting crispy, dark, or brown tips on its leaves, it may mean you need to water more often. Check the soil moisture and slowly reduce the number of days in between watering. Watch your plants for signs of improvement.</p> <p>Lack of humidity could also be the cause. Tropical plants prefer higher humidity levels than we have in our homes. When we turn on the heat in winter, there’s even less moisture in the air. Group plants together so that as one loses moisture through its leaves, the neighbours benefit. Or place plants on saucers or trays filled with pebbles and water. Set a pot on the pebbles above the water. As the water evaporates, it will increase the humidity around the plant, where it is needed.</p> <p><strong>Lack of nutrients</strong></p> <p>A lack of key nutrients may be behind the brown tips on leaves of your plant. Burned-looking leaf tips, or old leaves with dark green or reddish-purplish colouring, may indicate a phosphorus deficiency. With a potassium deficiency, you may see yellow or brown along older leaf tips and edges, yellowing between veins, curling leaves, or spotting.</p> <p>For potted plants, add a slow-release type of fertiliser to the soil mix before planting. Every time you water, a little fertiliser is released, providing a steady flow of nutrients. But depending on the growing conditions and number of plants in the container, a midseason boost may be needed. Stay on top of your fertiliser applications by making notes on a calendar.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/gardening-tips/why-does-my-plant-have-brown-tips-on-the-leaves" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Home & Garden

Placeholder Content Image

How to make a perfect romcom – an expert explains the recipe for romance

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christina-wilkins-1454385">Christina Wilkins</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-birmingham-1138">University of Birmingham</a></em></p> <p>Picture the scene: it’s a dreary weeknight evening, you’re tired from work, and you want to watch something that will pick you up. My guess is that some of you – perhaps more than would admit it – would pick a romantic comedy.</p> <p>Over the years the romcom has been designated as “chick flick”, dismissed at awards ceremonies (the best picture Oscar primarily goes to <a href="https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/movie-genres-perform-best-oscars-2179/">drama films</a>) and frequently panned by critics. Yet, critics are not the only ones buying cinema tickets or watching streaming services.</p> <p>A 2013 <a href="https://archive.nytimes.com/economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/14/reviewing-the-movies-audiences-vs-critics/">article</a> from the New York Times found that the romcom was one of the genres most likely to divide audience and critical opinion. Like many other things that are classified as “women’s things”, the romcom is often spoken of as a “guilty pleasure”.</p> <p>Researchers such as Claire Mortimer, who <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Romantic-Comedy/Mortimer/p/book/9780415548632">writes about comedy</a> and women, argue that the dismissal is not just down to the genre’s <a href="https://stjohnslis.libguides.com/c.php?g=1277106&amp;p=9378728">status as “women’s films”</a> but also because romcoms are genre films. Such films are often seen as repetitive – they rely on a number of tropes to be wheeled out again and again and we come to expect certain styles, stories and characters. Some films become key examples of a genre, a kind of “best of”, and form a template which the others either imitate or diverge from.</p> <p>That’s not to say that all romcoms are the same. But there’s a dominant form that we think of as being definitive, called the “neo-traditional romcom”. Tamar McDonald, a professor in film, <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9Bk-mkvdPYcC&amp;printsec=copyright&amp;redir_esc=y#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false">argues that</a> this is the main form of the genre now – one that “has no use for realism”.</p> <p>This can be seen in characters running through airports, the absurd lack of communication between love interests and the convenient mishaps. Without these elements though, the resolution wouldn’t be as sweet.</p> <h2>The perfect romcom</h2> <p>So what are the ingredients for a perfect romcom? Looking at the lists of the <a href="https://www.timeout.com/film/the-70-best-romcoms-of-all-time">best romcoms of all time</a> – which the internet <a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/08/best-romantic-comedies-list">isn’t short of</a> – we see similar tropes popping up repeatedly. One popular favourite, <a href="https://www.timeout.com/film/the-70-best-romcoms-of-all-time">When Harry Met Sally</a> (1989), features the “friends to lovers” storyline. This reoccurs in more recent films like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHBcWHY9lN4">Always Be My Maybe</a> (2019).</p> <p>Within a romcom, there typically has to be miscommunication – and lots of it. Although a relationship can blossom steadily, often unknown to the characters themselves, romcoms usually feature a pivotal moment where one character is not understood by the person they want.</p> <p>This miscommunication is also underpinned by conflict. Leger Grindon, an expert <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/The_Hollywood_Romantic_Comedy/okkZPTEnYqMC?hl=en&amp;gbpv=1&amp;dq=Leger+Grindon+rom+coms&amp;printsec=frontcover%22%22">in romantic comedies</a>, breaks these kinds of conflict into three major fields: between parents and children, the two characters who are dating, or when someone has to choose between personal development and sacrifice.</p> <p>We’ve seen examples of all of three over the years. Children defying their parents’ wishes to be with someone they love is a common theme in the queer love story, like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h58HkQV1gHY">Happiest Season</a> (2020), but is also present in other films, like My <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2mecmDFE-Q">Big Fat Greek Wedding</a> (2002).</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/O2mecmDFE-Q?wmode=transparent&amp;start=19" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">My Big Fat Greek Wedding hinges on conflict between family and love.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>Conflict between the needs of the love interests can be seen in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZKAA5DRF4A">What Women Want</a> (2000). And the conflict between personal development and sacrifice has been a common theme of many recent Netflix romcoms such as <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX6wAGuIMCg">Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between</a> (2022) or <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=km7gv28_uX0">The Holiday Calendar</a> (2019). In Hallmark Christmas films (their own sub-genre of the romcom) like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWKYnKGN8OA">Just In Time for Christmas</a> (2015), women often have to choose between their career and their relationship, a common recurrence for the Christmas sub-genre especially.</p> <p>Romcoms can provide escapism, but at their heart the glue of the genre is finding connection through love and laughter. How realistic this is may be shifting, with more recent examples in film and television providing more cultural critique (see comedian Rose Matafeo’s brilliant <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtHC1VmrNXM">Starstruck</a> series, streaming on BBC Three for example).</p> <p>The parameters for the characters of these stories are also changing. Once predominantly white and straight, the genre is opening up to a range of different stories. Recent examples like <a href="https://theconversation.com/red-white-and-royal-blue-review-this-queer-romcom-puts-a-new-spin-on-the-us-and-uks-special-relationship-211533">Red, White, and Royal Blue</a> (2023) and <a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9731598/">Bros</a> (2022) put gay male romance front and centre, while <a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt15893750/">Rye Lane</a> (2023) and <a href="https://theconversation.com/crazy-rich-asians-a-movie-and-a-movement-101568">Crazy Rich Asians</a> (2018) foreground non-white protagonists.</p> <p>Perhaps this is because – as <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Romantic-Comedy/Mortimer/p/book/9780415548632">Mortimer</a> argues – the genre is concerned with “perennial themes” of love and identity. In a moment where definitions and understandings of identity are shifting, the romcom provides an ideal place to think through these issues in a comforting way. Or perhaps we just need the optimism we associate with the genre at a time of war and economic crisis.</p> <p>Although there may be classics and new challengers emerging for the title of the best, the perfect romcom is one that shows that, despite all the challenges life may throw at us, there is sometimes a happy ending.</p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christina-wilkins-1454385">Christina Wilkins</a>, Lecturer in Film and Creative Writing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-birmingham-1138">University of Birmingham</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-make-a-perfect-romcom-an-expert-explains-the-recipe-for-romance-212487">original article</a>.</em></p>

Movies

Placeholder Content Image

No gavels, no hearsay and lots of drinking: a law expert ranks legal dramas by their accuracy

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dale-mitchell-1468293">Dale Mitchell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-the-sunshine-coast-1068">University of the Sunshine Coast</a></em></p> <p>From Elle Woods in Legally Blonde to <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10383441.2015.1087367">Jennifer Walters in She-Hulk</a>, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird to Denny Crane in Boston Legal, our popular culture is often where we first see and witness legal practice.</p> <p>Sometimes this comes via the silver screen, other times television. But it would be wrong to think that all we see on legal television shows is accurate – even when it claims to capture reality.</p> <p>Most legal dramas are terrible at capturing the realities of law.</p> <h2>Not accurate: Law(less) and (dis)Order</h2> <p>Law and Order (1990-) innovated television drama by showcasing both the investigation of a crime by police, and then its prosecution in court. With its multiple spin-offs, including Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-) and the shortlived Law and Order: Trial by Jury (2005-2006) (which had the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aolG65V1Dx8">best theme song of all the series</a>), the Law and Order franchise is a televisual legal juggernaut.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/aolG65V1Dx8?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>As with most serials, Law and Order presents the criminal justice system as moving quicker than you can say <em>dun dun</em>. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The mean duration of criminal law matters in Australian higher courts was <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/criminal-courts-australia/latest-release">almost one year</a> (50 weeks) across 2021-22.</p> <p>While <a href="http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_reg/ucpr1999305/s5.html">procedural rules in civil matters</a> require courts to facilitate the “just and efficient resolution of disputes at minimum expense”, in criminal law, speed and efficiency must not be prioritised over accuracy: a person’s liberty is at stake.</p> <p>Most criminal matters do not proceed to a full trial as an accused will often plead guilty to the charges. As a result, the matter proceeds to sentencing without prosecutors needing to prove the offence. The rates of this occurring are quite alarming. <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/criminal-courts-australia/latest-release">Data across 2021-22</a> reveals over 75% of defendants in Australian courts entered a guilty plea, and almost four in five criminal convictions (79%) resulted from a guilty plea.</p> <p><a href="https://law.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/1705761/32_1_8.pdf">Research suggests</a> defendants plead guilty for a variety of reasons, including to avoid the cost of a trial and to receive a lesser sentence. <a href="https://theconversation.com/pandemic-pushed-defendants-to-plead-guilty-more-often-including-innocent-people-pleading-to-crimes-they-didnt-commit-165056">Data from the United States</a> suggests the pressures of the pandemic led to innocent people pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit.</p> <p>If Law and Order was a more accurate reflection of criminal law, matters would proceed immediately to sentencing due to guilty pleas. And should an accused be found guilty, a chunk of their sentence would be reduced by time served awaiting trial.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/60GV5lv8h3o?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Not accurate: Suits</h2> <p>Suits (2011-19) centres around law firm partner Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and his mentorship of Mike Ross (Patrick Adams) – the “lawyer” who never graduated law school and provides legal advice thanks to his photographic memory.</p> <p>This is, obviously, a brutal ethical breach for all involved, and clearly fraud. In Australia, law students who present themselves to be lawyers are <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-07/law-graduate-jacob-reichman-fined-posing-solicitor-gold-coast/7824324">subject to sanctions</a> by the Legal Services Commission. They can <a href="https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/biglaw/35821-fake-lawyer-cops-suspended-jail-sentence">cause harm to clients</a> who have hired their services. And the Legal Admissions Board may <a href="https://www.qlsproctor.com.au/2020/11/chief-justice-wants-answers-before-considering-lawyer-impersonators-bid-to-become-legal-practitioner/">deny their entry</a> into the profession.</p> <p>(Spoilers) Ross is eventually sentenced to two years in prison for this fraud, a similar sentence to <a href="https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/almID/1202786675709/">a recent case in the United States</a>, but he only serves three months before solving a crime and earning early release. More unrealistic than this early release is that Ross does fairly quickly thereafter gain admission to the profession, which seems unlikely to occur so soon after such an act of fraud.</p> <p>While Suits has left its mark(le) on the popular imagination of law, it fails to address one of the primary duties of civil litigation: the duty of disclosure.</p> <p>The MacGuffin-ing of law is common in TV serials. It’s the “smoking gun” found on the day of the trial, or for the lawyers in Suits, the random document which shows up <em>during</em> the trial to turn the case - dramatically presented by our protagonists as they flail into court armed with this data sans ethics.</p> <p>This is not quite accurate.</p> <p>In adversarial legal systems like Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US, civil litigation rules <a href="http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_reg/ucpr1999305/s211.html">require parties</a> to disclose to one another all documents in their possession or control which are directly relevant to a matter in dispute.</p> <p>This is a continuing duty, so if you discover such a document at any time during the case, it must be disclosed. While <a href="http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_reg/ucpr1999305/s212.html">exceptions</a> based on various privileges may apply, this essentially means civil litigation must be run in an “all cards on the table” manner. Randomly producing undisclosed material at trial requires the leave of the court and may result in orders of contempt and <a href="http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_reg/ucpr1999305/s225.html">cost penalties</a>.</p> <p>It’s not like the lawyers of Suits have ever really been concerned about ethics, though.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/wUh9jomHZp4?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Not accurate: How to Get Away with Murder(ing rules of evidence)</h2> <p>While most lawyers would support making it a criminal offence to critique Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder (2014-20) presents one of the most common offences within legal dramas: the haphazard approach to rules of evidence.</p> <p>Annalise Keating (Davis) and her ragtag team of morally illiterate law students (although I never see them studying?!?!) manipulate people to obtain evidence and then dramatically prompt witnesses on the stand to read this information into the record, or otherwise “sneak” it into the trial.</p> <p>This is not accurate. And it ignores the basic reality that so much of legal practice is about not just obtaining evidence, but ensuring that evidence is admissible in court.</p> <p>One of the most important rules of evidence deals with <a href="http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ea199580/s59.html"><em>hearsay evidence</em></a>. A court cannot allow evidence to be considered if its reliability is unable to be interrogated. Witnesses can only present evidence that they saw, heard or perceived themselves. Unless an exception to the hearsay rule applies, such evidence would be inadmissible.</p> <p>Like in Suits, these approaches to presenting evidence may have serious implications. This poor trial management results in <a href="https://www.aic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-05/rpp074.pdf">delays to criminal trials.</a>.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rMB_Gw5-T-I?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Accurate: Fisk</h2> <p>Fisk (2021-) follows Helen Tudor-Fisk (Kitty Flanagan), an established contract lawyer whose personal dramas lead her to move to the boutique Melbourne probate law firm of Gruber and Gruber (played by Marty Sheargold and Julia Zamero).</p> <p>Fisk excels in showing the importance of lawyer-client relations and the word-of-mouth that sustains much of small legal practice. It’s the anti-Suits, and Fisk is more powerful for it.</p> <p>The discussions of wills and estates and most basic legal principles in Fisk are mostly sound – and the show doesn’t need to get into “legalese” as matters are resolved out-of-court.</p> <p>This is a distinct reality of law: litigation is a last resort. Forms of <a href="https://www.qls.com.au/Practising-law-in-Qld/ADR/Alternative-Dispute-Resolution/Types-of-Alternative-Dispute-Resolution-(ADR)">alternative dispute resolution</a>, including mediation, negotiation and conciliation, have become the primary way of resolving legal disputes.</p> <p>Fuelled by <a href="https://www.ag.gov.au/legal-system/alternative-dispute-resolution/civil-dispute-resolution-act-2011">legislative changes</a> which require the exhaustion of alternative dispute resolution measures before proceeding to litigation, and a pursuit of reduced costs, the drama of trial is not something anyone should yearn for.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N1Qt0Wo1gGo?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Accurate: Rake</h2> <p>Cleaver Greene, a character said to be loosely based on the career of a Sydney barrister, shows us the absolute madness of work as a “<a href="https://nswbar.asn.au/the-bar-association/senior-counsel#:%7E:text=Senior%20counsel%20are%20barristers%20who,a%20QC%20or%20queen's%20counsel.">silk</a>”. Rake excels at showing the reality of law. The show raises interesting and accurate questions of law (yes, it is true there is no <a href="https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/bitstream/10453/18992/1/2011006119.pdf">explicit offence</a> of cannibalism in New South Wales) and presents Australian court process accurately.</p> <p>Thankfully, there’s not a gavel in sight. <a href="https://www.survivelaw.com/post/941-working-hardly-random-facts-about-the-gavel">Australian courts <em>do not</em> use gavels</a>, and their presence in legal dramas in Australian and UK courts shows a lack of attention to detail. The presence of the gavel as a symbol of justice is <a href="http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/NSWBarAssocNews/1994/17.pdf">an entirely American invention</a>.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qWWI2EdOssk?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Rake is accurate, in part, because the site of drama is rarely the courtroom, but rather Greene’s personal life. The accuracy of that element for law I will leave up to the jury. But with a <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13218719.2013.822783">2014 study</a> finding 35% of lawyers engaged in hazardous or harmful drinking and another showing <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-15/study-finds-high-rates-anxiety-depression-in-legal-profession/11412832">high rates of anxiety and depression</a> in the legal profession, the evidence is compelling.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/212880/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dale-mitchell-1468293"><em>Dale Mitchell</em></a><em>, Lecturer in Law, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-the-sunshine-coast-1068">University of the Sunshine Coast</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/no-gavels-no-hearsay-and-lots-of-drinking-a-law-expert-ranks-legal-dramas-by-their-accuracy-212880">original article</a>.</em></p>

Legal

Placeholder Content Image

An X-Files expert on the show’s enduring appeal – 30 years on

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bethan-jones-1345648">Bethan Jones</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-york-1344">University of York</a></em></p> <p>On September 10 1993 the pilot episode of The X-Files aired. Thirty years later to the day, I was at a <a href="https://www.twincities.com/2023/04/17/moa-30th-anniversary-x-files-convention/">convention centre in Minneapolis</a> with 500 other fans and the show’s creator, Chris Carter, celebrating its legacy.</p> <p>Ostensibly a show about aliens, The X-Files swiftly became part of the cultural lexicon and remains there to this day. In part its success was down to the chemistry of its two leads – David Duchovny, who played FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson, who played FBI Special Agent Dana Scully. After all, it was the X-Files fandom that invented the term <a href="https://www.vox.com/2016/6/7/11858680/fandom-glossary-fanfiction-explained">“shipping”</a> (rooting for characters to get together romantically).</p> <p>But, as I argue in my new book, <a href="https://www.tuckerdspress.com/product-page/the-x-files-the-truth-is-still-out-there">The Truth Is Still Out There: Thirty Years of The X-Files</a>, what really made the series successful was its ability to tap into contemporary cultural moments and ask us to really think about the times we’re living in.</p> <p>When the series began in 1993, the US was still grappling with the effects of <a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/Watergate-Scandal">Watergate</a> and the <a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/Vietnam-War">Vietnam war</a>, but concerns were also rising about the approaching millennium and the economic and cultural divisions within US society. It also coincided with Bill Clinton becoming president – marking the end of more than a decade of Republican leadership.</p> <p>It’s little surprise that fears about immigration, globalisation, national identity and technology emerged and were adopted – and sometimes foreshadowed – by The X-Files’ writers. Several episodes throughout the first nine seasons dealt with artificial technology, for example, and <a href="https://x-files.fandom.com/wiki/Eve">Eve</a>, an episode in season one about clones, came four years before the birth of <a href="https://dolly.roslin.ed.ac.uk/facts/the-life-of-dolly/index.html">Dolly the Sheep</a>.</p> <p>Critical theorist Douglas Kellner <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/432310?casa_token=44PnlIC58_oAAAAA%3AyDF-53m8WsQCfec-VrVjlF8nav_Q2y24s9ldHo7bFPUvAwUrbcieUZoEk7DZe6R3Mma-WcaUNskkC4CR4baLoAHz7EdFEqcAONLgeI4SiU85I-LPIjNk">argued in 1994</a> that The X-Files “generated distrust toward established authority, representing institutions of government and the established order as highly flawed, even complicit in the worst crimes and evil imaginable”. Though I’d argue it was less that the show generated this distrust and more that it leveraged the growing number of reports about the government’s secretive activities to inspire its storylines.</p> <p>As the public became more aware of the government’s role in – and surveillance of – public life, so too The X-Files considered the ways in which technology could be used as a means of control.</p> <p>In the season three episode <a href="https://x-files.fandom.com/wiki/Wetwired">Wetwired</a>, for example, a device attached to a telephone pole emits signals that tap into people’s paranoid delusions and lead them to kill. And in the season six episode, <a href="https://x-files.fandom.com/wiki/S.R._819">SR 819</a>, a character’s circulatory system fails because he has been infected with nanotechnology controlled by a remote device belonging to a shadow government.</p> <p>These themes reflected growing concerns about government agencies using technology to both spy on and influence the public.</p> <h2>The X-Files’ enduring appeal</h2> <p>During my X-Files research, carried out with viewers after a revival was announced in 2015, it became clear that the show has remained part of the cultural lexicon. As one fan explained: “The cultural context of conspiracy theories has changed since the beginning of X-Files. Nowadays, every pseudoscience documentary uses similar soundtrack and narrative.”</p> <p>Of course, the X-Files didn’t invent conspiracy theories, but as one of the show’s writers and producers, Jim Wong, <a href="https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/how-x-files-brought-conspiracy-theories-into-mainstream-culture">points out</a>, it did “tap into something that was more or less hidden in the beginning when we were doing it”.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-P-07yN806A?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">The trailer for The X-Files revival.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>The focus on the rise of the alt-right, disinformation and fake news in seasons 10 and 11 seemed like a logical angle from which to approach the changing cultural context the revival came into. Carter and his co-writers dove straight in to what Guardian critic <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2016/feb/09/your-government-lies-why-the-x-files-revival-is-just-right-for-our-climate-of-extreme-scepticism">Mark Lawson calls</a> “a new era of governmental paranoia and public scepticism”, fuelled by the 2008 financial crisis, the fall out of the war on terror and scores of political scandals.</p> <p>Season 10 saw the introduction of a right-wing internet talk show host who argues that 9/11 was a “false flag operation” and that the mainstream liberal media lie to Americans about life, liberty and the right to bear arms. The parallels to conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck were obvious.</p> <p>Carter’s incorporation of topics like surveillance, governments’ misuse of power and methods of social control meant that seasons ten and 11 were very much situated in the contemporary moment. This is perhaps most obvious in the season 11 episode, <a href="https://x-files.fandom.com/wiki/The_Lost_Art_of_Forehead_Sweat">The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat</a>, which deals with the disinformation of the Trump era head on. The episode’s protagonist, Dr. They, tells Mulder that “no one can tell the difference anymore between what’s real and what’s fake”.</p> <p>While The X-Files’ search for the truth in the 1990s may have ultimately been a philosophical endeavour, in the 21st century it is a commentary on how emotion and belief can be more influential than objective facts.</p> <p>Watching the show again while researching my book, I was struck by how it was dated predominantly by its lack of technology, rather than the ideas it expresses. In the second season episode <a href="https://x-files.fandom.com/wiki/Ascension">Ascension</a>, Mulder pulls a phone book off a shelf in his search for Scully – now we’d use Google. But in other aspects the show remains as relevant today as it was in the 1990s, encouraging us to think about the big questions relating to faith, authority and truth.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bethan-jones-1345648"><em>Bethan Jones</em></a><em>, Research Associate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-york-1344">University of York</a></em></p> <p><em>Image </em><em>credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/an-x-files-expert-on-the-shows-enduring-appeal-30-years-on-213610">original article</a>.</em></p>

TV

Placeholder Content Image

Body language expert analyses Hugh Jackman's last public outings with his wife

<p>A body language expert has analysed the last public outings of Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness before they <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/hugh-jackman-devastated-after-marriage-split" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced their split</a> after 27 years of marriage. </p> <p>The couple were spotted at both the Met Gala in New York and Wimbledon in the UK earlier this year, seemingly looking like a perfect loved-up couple. </p> <p>However, Aussie body language expert Louise Mahler said there could be more than meets the eye at their public outings. </p> <p>“These are two people so well rehearsed at being with each other. They lean in together, they move in unison,” Mahler told <a href="https://7news.com.au/entertainment" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-link-type="article-inline"><em>7Life</em>.</a></p> <p>Assessing footage from their joint appearance at the Met Gala in May 2023, Mahler noticed that “at one point in the video Hugh goes to walk away and she briefly pulls him back and he stops with no hesitation”.</p> <p>“There is no giveaway whatsoever... and remember, they are both actors."</p> <p>“They are working as a team and showing total harmony.”</p> <p>However, Mahler went on to assess a specific moment from the Met Gala where the couple were gazing at one another head-on.</p> <p>“I’m going to speculate that he has left her because he’s looking at her quickly,” she said.</p> <p>“He still loves her but he’s moving on."</p> <p>“And what I see from her is, ‘I get that you’re moving on, you b******, but I will allow this’,” Mahler speculated about Furness’ body language.</p> <p>Two months after their Met Gala appearance, the couple attended Wimbledon to sit side by side and watch the game. </p> <p>Mahler acknowledged that they looked “a little cranky” but said that they were concentrated on the game and likely had cameras on them “for a long time”.</p> <p>“I don’t see that they’re pulling away from each other in any way,” she said.</p> <p>“In fact, their arms are touching the full length. This is a couple who have been together for 30 years, they know each other. I would say they still love each other, but they’re deciding to go their separate ways.”</p> <p>The Hollywood couple shocked the world on Saturday when they released a statement confirming their separation after being married for 27 years.</p> <p>“We have been blessed to share almost three decades together as husband and wife in a wonderful, loving marriage,” Jackman and Furness told <em><a href="https://people.com/hugh-jackman-and-deborra-lee-jackman-separate-exclusive-7970286" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-link-type="article-inline">People</a></em>.</p> <p>“Our journey now is shifting and we have decided to separate to pursue our individual growth."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Relationships

Placeholder Content Image

Does running water really trigger the urge to pee? Experts explain the brain-bladder connection

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-overs-1458017">James Overs</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-homewood-1458022">David Homewood</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/melbourne-health-950">Melbourne Health</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helen-elizabeth-oconnell-ao-1458226">Helen Elizabeth O'Connell AO</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/simon-robert-knowles-706104">Simon Robert Knowles</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>We all know that feeling when nature calls – but what’s far less understood is the psychology behind it. Why, for example, do we get the urge to pee just before getting into the shower, or when we’re swimming? What brings on those “nervous wees” right before a date?</p> <p>Research suggests our brain and bladder are in constant communication with each other via a neural network called the <a href="https://www.einj.org/journal/view.php?doi=10.5213/inj.2346036.018">brain-bladder axis</a>.</p> <p>This complex web of circuitry is comprised of sensory neural activity, including the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These neural connections allow information to be sent <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/diagnostics12123119">back and forth</a> between the brain and bladder.</p> <p>The brain-bladder axis not only facilitates the act of peeing, but is also responsible for telling us we need to go in the first place.</p> <h2>How do we know when we need to go?</h2> <p>As the bladder fills with urine and expands, this activates special receptors detecting stretch in the nerve-rich lining of the bladder wall. This information is then relayed to the “periaqueductal gray” – a part of the brain in the brainstem which <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn2401">constantly monitors</a> the bladder’s filling status.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=454&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/547931/original/file-20230913-19-2kgkhk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=570&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">The periaqueductal gray is a section of gray matter located in the midbrain section of the brainstem.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainstem#/media/File:1311_Brain_Stem.jpg">Wikimedia/OpenStax</a>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Once the bladder reaches a certain threshold (roughly 250-300ml of urine), another part of the brain called the “pontine micturition centre” is activated and signals that the bladder needs to be emptied. We, in turn, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16254993/">register this</a> as that all-too-familiar feeling of fullness and pressure down below.</p> <p>Beyond this, however, a range of situations can trigger or exacerbate our need to pee, by increasing the production of urine and/or stimulating reflexes in the bladder.</p> <h2>Peeing in the shower</h2> <p>If you’ve ever felt the need to pee while in the shower (no judgement here) it may be due to the sight and sound of running water.</p> <p>In a 2015 study, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126798">researchers demonstrated</a> that males with urinary difficulties found it easier to initiate peeing when listening to the sound of running water being played on a smartphone.</p> <p>Symptoms of overactive bladder, including urgency (a sudden need to pee), have also been <a href="https://www.alliedacademies.org/articles/environmental-cues-to-urgency-and-incontinence-episodes-in-chinesepatients-with-overactive-urinary-bladder-syndrome.html">linked to</a> a range of environmental cues involving running water, including washing your hands and taking a shower.</p> <p>This is likely due to both physiology and psychology. Firstly, the sound of running water may have a relaxing <em>physiological</em> effect, increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. This would relax the bladder muscles and prepare the bladder for emptying.</p> <p>At the same time, the sound of running water may also have a conditioned <em>psychological</em> effect. Due to the countless times in our lives where this sound has coincided with the actual act of peeing, it may trigger an instinctive reaction in us to urinate.</p> <p>This would happen in the same way <a href="https://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html">Pavlov’s dog learnt</a>, through repeated pairing, to salivate when a bell was rung.</p> <h2>Cheeky wee in the sea</h2> <p>But it’s not just the sight or sound of running water that makes us want to pee. Immersion in cold water has been shown to cause a “cold shock response”, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19945970">which activates</a> the sympathetic nervous system.</p> <p>This so-called “fight or flight” response drives up our blood pressure which, in turn, causes our kidneys to filter out more fluid from the bloodstream to stabilise our blood pressure, in a process called “<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00864230">immersion diuresis</a>”. When this happens, our bladder fills up faster than normal, triggering the urge to pee.</p> <p>Interestingly, immersion in very warm water (such as a relaxing bath) may also increase urine production. In this case, however, it’s due to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s004210050065">One study</a> demonstrated an increase in water temperature from 40℃ to 50℃ reduced the time it took for participants to start urinating.</p> <p>Similar to the effect of hearing running water, the authors of the study suggest being in warm water is calming for the body and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This activation can result in the relaxation of the bladder and possibly the pelvic floor muscles, bringing on the urge to pee.</p> <h2>The nervous wee</h2> <p>We know stress and anxiety can cause bouts of nausea and butterflies in the tummy, but what about the bladder? Why do we feel a sudden and frequent urge to urinate at times of heightened stress, such as before a date or job interview?</p> <p>When a person becomes stressed or anxious, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This triggers a cascade of physiological changes designed to prepare the body to face a perceived threat.</p> <p>As part of this response, the muscles surrounding the bladder may contract, leading to a more urgent and frequent need to pee. Also, as is the case during immersion diuresis, the increase in blood pressure associated with the stress response may <a href="https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI102496">stimulate</a> the kidneys to produce more urine.</p> <h2>Some final thoughts</h2> <p>We all pee (most of us several times a day). Yet <a href="https://doi.org/10.5489/cuaj.1150">research has shown</a> about 75% of adults know little about how this process actually works – and even less about the brain-bladdder axis and its role in urination.</p> <p><a href="https://www.continence.org.au/about-us/our-work/key-statistics-incontinence#:%7E:text=Urinary%20incontinence%20affects%20up%20to,38%25%20of%20Australian%20women1.">Most Australians</a> will experience urinary difficulties at some point in their lives, so if you ever have concerns about your urinary health, it’s extremely important to consult a healthcare professional.</p> <p>And should you ever find yourself unable to pee, perhaps the sight or sound of running water, a relaxing bath or a nice swim will help with getting that stream to flow.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210808/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-overs-1458017"><em>James Overs</em></a><em>, Research Assistant, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-homewood-1458022">David Homewood</a>, Urology Research Registrar, Western Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/melbourne-health-950">Melbourne Health</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helen-elizabeth-oconnell-ao-1458226">Helen Elizabeth O'Connell AO</a>, Professor, University of Melbourne, Department of Surgery. President Urological Society Australia and New Zealand, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/simon-robert-knowles-706104">Simon Robert Knowles</a>, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-running-water-really-trigger-the-urge-to-pee-experts-explain-the-brain-bladder-connection-210808">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

An expert’s top 5 reasons why dogs can be considered exceptional animals

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-starling-461103">Melissa Starling</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Dogs are important to a lot of humans, but what makes them so?</p> <p>Apart from being warm, soft and capable of inspiring our unconditional love, there are a number of unique characteristics that set dogs apart from other animals.</p> <p>As a dog researcher, animal behaviour consultant and canophile (which means I <em>love</em> dogs), let me share five traits that I think make dogs so special.</p> <h2>Dogs are hypersocial</h2> <p>We all know those golden retriever-type dogs that appear absurdly delighted to meet any new social being. It’s hard not to be taken in by their infectious friendliness. These furry, hypersocial creatures have some key genetic differences even to other domestic dogs.</p> <p>Most fascinatingly, these genetic differences are in the area of the genome <a href="https://www.insidescience.org/news/rare-human-syndrome-may-explain-why-dogs-are-so-friendly">associated</a> with hypersociability in people with a genetic condition called Williams-Beuren syndrome. Although people with this syndrome experience negative health effects, they also tend to be very open, engaging and sociable.</p> <p>Not all dogs fall into this hypersocial category – but even those that don’t are unusually accepting of unfamiliar people and dogs.</p> <p>Unlike other social wild canids such as wolves, domestic dogs can quite happily live in harmony with different species, as well as individuals of their own species that aren’t from their family. This is what makes it so easy to slot dogs into our lives.</p> <h2>Dogs are wired to understand us</h2> <p>Humans have selectively bred dogs for many generations. And in many cases, we’ve bred them to take direction to help us in a wide variety of jobs – including being companions to us. This has led to domestic dogs being born with an interest in humans.</p> <p>From an early age, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982221006023">puppies are attracted</a> to human faces. While dogs are as co-operative as wolves, they tend to be submissive towards humans and follow our directions – whereas wolves are bolder and more likely to lead when <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1709027114">co-operating with humans</a>.</p> <p>Dogs also learn to follow our gaze, and show a left-gaze bias when looking at human faces. This means they spend more time looking at the left side of our faces (which would be the right side from our perspective). This bias emerges in several species when they are processing emotional information, which shows that dogs are <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0152393">reading our faces</a> to figure out how we’re feeling.</p> <p>For a while it was also thought dogs were particularly attentive to human gestures such as pointing – but recent research suggests many domestic species and some wild animal species can also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7555673/">follow pointing</a>.</p> <h2>Dogs come in countless shapes and sizes</h2> <p>No other species comes in such a huge variety of shapes and sizes as domestic dogs. Not even cats or horses display the same diversity.</p> <p>The largest dogs may be close to 25 times the size of the smallest! Beyond that, we have dogs with drop ears and prick ears and everything in between, tails and no tails, or bob tails, short legs and long legs, long noses and short noses – and a huge variety of coat colours, lengths and textures.</p> <p>For dogs, this huge variation might mean they have more to learn than other animals when it comes to understanding their own kind. For example, owners of herding breed dogs may find their dog a bit confused, or even defensive, when meeting a very different short-faced breed such as a bulldog.</p> <p>For us, it means we should appreciate how the size and shape of dogs can influence <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149403">their behaviour</a> and experiences. For instance, dogs with longer noses have sharper vision, while dogs with a lighter build tend to be more energetic and fearful.</p> <h2>Dogs form deep emotional bonds</h2> <p>Domestic dogs have been shown to form attachment bonds with human caregivers that are very similar to those formed between <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0065296">children and parents</a>.</p> <p>This may partly explain why they can read our <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10426098/">emotional signals</a>, why they become distressed (and try to help us) when <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0231742">we are distressed</a>, and why MRI studies show dogs are happy when they smell <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376635714000473">their owners</a>.</p> <p>It may also be why they panic when separated from us. Dogs’ attachment to humans goes beyond being hypersocial. To them, we are a lot more than the food we provide and the balls we throw. We are an attachment figure akin to a parent.</p> <h2>Dogs can help us be our best selves</h2> <p>Most dog owners would agree their dog brings out the best in them. They can confide in their dog and love them unconditionally – sometimes more easily than they can another human.</p> <p>Dogs are playing important roles in animal-assisted therapy, where their nonjudgmental presence can be a calming influence and <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40489-019-00188-5">facilitate social interactions</a>. They can even help children <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10643-022-01392-5">learn to read</a> and <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/10/21/5171">alleviate anxiety</a>.</p> <p>Although assisting humans with their emotional problems can be a difficult task for such an emotionally sensitive species, research suggests the right dogs can rise to the task if their workload is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787818302193">managed carefully</a>.</p> <p>Horses are also used in animal-assisted therapy, as are some smaller furry animals. However, dogs are more portable and can remain at ease in stimulating environments such as courtrooms, schools and airports. They are uniquely placed to accompany us wherever we go.</p> <h2>Paws for thought</h2> <p>We might like to think dogs are special for some of the traits we value in humans, such as intelligence, selflessness or a loving nature. But really dogs are exceptional for simply being dogs.</p> <p>They are social acrobats that can find social harmony wherever they go. They have rich emotional lives in which they co-exist with different species and can even forge bonds <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89dCR3VinMM&amp;ab_channel=WCCO-CBSMinnesota">outside of their own species</a>.</p> <p>They are also generally tolerant of our primate ways – and good at receiving our love. And for me that’s enough.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/211832/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-starling-461103">Melissa Starling</a>, Postdoctoral Researcher in Veterinary Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/an-experts-top-5-reasons-why-dogs-can-be-considered-exceptional-animals-211832">original article</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

Our Partners