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Why your bathroom scales are lying to you and how to find your true weight

22 January, by Martin Robbins[ —]

I weighed myself every hour for the entire bank holiday weekend. Here’s what I found out.

For a long time now I’ve been weighing myself daily, but I realised early on that the numbers you see when you step on the scales are almost always nonsense. Weight measurements are like opinion polls – individual results don’t tell you anything because there’s just too much random noise, error and variation. It’s only when you have a few dozen that you can start to reliably pick out a trend.

But that noise made me curious. It’s easy to chalk up weight gains and losses to hidden forces or semi-scientific concepts like ‘starvation mode’, but when you do that you lose a sense of control. Understanding is power, and I wanted to understand what my body did over the course of a single day that caused my weight to vary so much from one morning to the next.

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The billionaire's guide to surviving global warming – with Ian the Climate Denialist Potato | First Dog on the Moon

22 January, by First Dog on the Moon[ —]

Here are some things you can do to make climate change even less inconvenient – also fun!

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In its own ‘war on plastic’, the UK government is a deserter | Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

22 January, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall[ —]

The 25-year deadline spells doom for many ocean species. One supermarket’s pledge to ban plastics puts the target to shame

The prime minister has declared war on plastic, with an announcement that the government hopes to “eliminate all avoidable plastic waste” within 25 years. You could say that this week saw the first troops landing on our plastic-strewn beaches. But, rather than our ministers or MPs, they turned out to be the shelf-stackers and checkout workers of Iceland supermarkets.

Those shop workers could well be among the first to handle a new kind of plastics-free packaging that the world so badly needs. While the war may last well beyond next Christmas, Iceland has pledged victory over plastic packaging within five years – 20 years ahead of Theresa May’s deadline. This is, of course, good news, because the government’s war wasn’t looking likely to liberate anything any time soon.

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Starwatch: the moon and a pair of star clusters

21 January, by Stuart Clark[ —]

The waxing moon is moving towards the Pleiades and Hyades

The Moon approaches two star clusters on the evening of 26 January. Both clusters are located in Taurus and can be seen with the naked eye. Find the waxing Moon in the south-west, then look to its upper right to see a tight grouping of stars known as the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. These stars all formed together some time within the last 100 million years. To the upper left is a more spread-out V-shaped cluster known as the Hyades. Roughly six times the age of the Pleiades, the Hyades is the closest star cluster to Earth, just 150 light years away. But don’t be fooled by the bright red star, Aldebaran – it is not part of the cluster. It just happens to lie along the same line of sight. The Sun was probably once a member of a star cluster. But at 4.6 billion years in age, its stellar siblings have long since dispersed.

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Up to a million Britons use steroids for looks not sport

21 January, by Steven Morris[ —]

Health warnings as image culture drives usage of performance-enhancing drugs

Up to 1 million people in the UK are taking anabolic steroids and other image- and performance-enhancing drugs (IPEDs) to change the way they look, public health experts and doctors have said.

This ranges from teenagers seeking the perfect physique to elderly men hoping to hang on to youthful looks.

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Jordan Peterson: ‘The pursuit of happiness is a pointless goal’

21 January, by Tim Lott[ —]

Life is tragic, says the provocative Jordan Peterson, and we are all capable of turning into monsters. But this hasn’t stopped millions from watching his online lectures. Tim Lott meets him as he publishes 12 Rules for Life

It is uncomfortable to be told to get in touch with your inner psychopath, that life is a catastrophe and that the aim of living is not to be happy. This is hardly the staple of most self-help books. And yet, superficially at least, a self-help book containing these messages is what the Canadian psychologist Jordan B Peterson has written.

His book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is an ambitious, some would say hubristic, attempt to explain how an individual should live their life, ethically rather than in the service of self. It is informed by the Bible, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung and Dostoevsky – again, uncommon sources for the genre.

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Can a DIY fertility test help you plan when to have a baby?

21 January, by Zoë Corbyn[ —]
A new wave of tech startups is promising women detailed insights into their ability to conceive. But experts are sceptical

My sisters, aged 27 and 30, are seated at their computers poring over the slick websites of companies promising to reveal secrets to them about their fertility. “Get insight into how your fertility is tracking relative to your age,” promises one. “Get the tools you need to have more control over your fertility,” says a second. “Gauge how long you have left to conceive,” says a third. The tests, which look at the levels of one or more female hormones in the blood, style themselves as easy to order and are less than what one would pay in a fertility clinic. “The information seems relatively cheap and readily available, so why not find out?” says my older sister. “I just assumed I wouldn’t have any fertility issues,” says the younger. “I realise after looking at these websites I probably shouldn’t assume this.”

These companies are the latest outgrowth of the growing global market in fertility services. Fuelled by women delaying childbirth longer, it includes IVF and egg freezing and is expected to generate $21bn (£15.5bn) in revenue globally by 2020. Female hormone testing was once the domain of fertility clinics attended by women struggling to conceive, but a clutch of US-based startups has recently begun, controversially, offering it directly – but as “wellness monitoring”, rather than to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Young women like my sisters, who aren’t even trying to get pregnant, are firmly in their sights.

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If adolescence now lasts until 24, what does that mean for the rest of us? | Yvonne Roberts

21 January, by Yvonne Roberts[ —]

The rigid boundaries of youth are giving way, but sooner or later we must all learn to grow up

In medieval times, childhood ended at the age of seven, with the arrival of a supposed understanding of right from wrong. Childhood and adolescence have constantly been refashioned. Last week it received its latest round of remodelling.

Scientists have announced that adolescence, previously thought to end at 19, now stretches from 10 to 24, and they recommended that laws should be changed to take this into account (considerably raising the criminal age of responsibility in England and Wales from 10 would be a start, but is probably not on this agenda.)

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Headless body is not C18th Scottish clan chief, say experts

19 January, by Press Association[ —]

Tests show remains were those of woman and not Bonnie Prince Charlie supporter Simon Fraser

Human remains thought to belong to a notorious 18th-century Jacobite-supporting Scottish clan chief have been found to be those of an unknown headless woman, according to experts.

Official accounts maintain the remains of Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat known as the Old Fox, were buried under a chapel floor in the Tower of London after his execution.

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Lab notes: talkin' 'bout a resolution (sounds like some science)

19 January, by Tash Reith-Banks[ —]

We’re far enough into January for most resolutions to have been tested somewhat. I’m one of the many hoping that doggedly sticking to Dry January will atone for December’s sins, and if that rings a bell with you, then here’s what the experts have to say about the efficacy of temporary abstinence. For those of you freshly committing to pursuits such as yoga, you might be interested in a new vascular study weighing up the claims made for hot yoga. However, all these healthy January ambitions may come to naught if your office, like mine, is heading for Aztec levels of pestilence (oh, all right, it’s not that bad – although it may get worse if people start letting go with their sneezes instead of stifling them after reading this cautionary tale of throat rupture). Still, if you are having to take a few duvet days it will give you more time to read up on the fascinating discovery of complex engineering and metal-work beneath an ancient Greek “pyramid” or maybe to indulge in a little creative thinking. If your nose is all bunged up the idea of smelling again – let alone being able to describe scent – may feel far off, but you might still be intrigued by this study which concludes that how we source our food might affect how we describe scent. And on a serious note, let’s hope this year brings more breakthroughs like this: researchers have made a major advance in developing a blood test that could use DNA and biomarkers to detect and identify cancers, including five types for which there is currently no screening test. That’s what I’m talking about, 2018: more of this, thanks.

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