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Are smartphones really making our children sad?

US psychologist Jean Twenge, who has claimed that social media is having a malign affect on the young, answers critics who accuse her of crying wolf Last week, the childrens commissioner, Anne Longfield, responded to the campaign. The assumption that time online or in front of a screen is life wasted needs challenging. It is driven by fear, he said. The best thing we can do is to focus less on the time they spend on screens at home and more on the nature of the activity. This exchange is…

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Perseid meteor shower: everything you need to know to see it

The annual meteor shower will fill the night sky with glowing streaks this weekend, as the Earth travels through debris shed by comet Swift-Tuttle From piquing the interest of astronomers to fuelling the musings of poets, meteor showers have left a trail of inspiration in their wake since humanity first peered up into the sky. Now inspiration is set to strike once more. This weekend the night sky will be filled with glowing streaks as the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak, with the best views in the northern…

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Why we fell for clean eating

The long read: The oh-so-Instagrammable food movement has been thoroughly debunked but it shows no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. Not cool was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a wellness blogger in New…

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It was all yellow: did digitalis affect the way Van Gogh saw the world?

Extracted from foxgloves, digitalis was once used as a treatment for epilepsy. Could a side effect have triggered the artists yellow period? It was recently the 127th anniversary of the tragic death of may have been treated with digitalis for the epileptic fits he experienced. Digitalis, extracted from foxglove plants, is a powerful medicine still in use today as a treatment for certain heart conditions, but not epilepsy. In Van Goghs day, and for a long time before then, digitalis was known to be an effective treatment of may have…

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Forget the environment: we need new words to convey lifes wonders | George Monbiot

We need better ways of talking about nature and our relationships with it, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot If Moses had promised the Israelites a land flowing with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? Though this means milk and honey, I doubt it would have inspired them. So why do we use such language to describe the natural wonders of the world? There are examples everywhere, but I will illustrate the problem with a few from the UK. On land, places in which nature…

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Can you solve it? Are you smarter than a forester?

A puzzle about planting trees Hello guzzlers, Your mission today is to design an arrangement of trees on a desert island, like the one below. An aerial view of five trees on an island. When there is a single tree, no matter where you stand on the island you will always be able to see exactly one tree. An island with a single tree. From each of the two black dots you can see a single tree. With two trees, however, there are some places where you can see two…

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Is marriage improving your health?

In theory being married is better for than you than being single, but theres a twist, says Ben Ambridge Is your marriage healthy? Many studies have found that married people are healthier than unmarried ones, and the longer you have been married, the healthier you are. But it depends on gender and age. To find out for yourself, answer these questions: 1. When were you born?a) before 1975b) after 1975 2. How long have you been married?a) neverb) less than 10 years c) 10+ years Women married for less than…

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How to conquer our obsession with eternal life | Matt Haig

Our anti-ageing quest only increases anxiety, says Matt Haig. Instead, we need to understand the tricks of time As a culture, we are obsessed with ageing. We have always been obsessed but now, paradoxically, in an era where we live longer than ever, we fear it more than ever before too. There is, of course, a whole industry devoted to capitalising on our fears of the natural ageing process and its a lucrative one. In fact, the anti-ageing industry, which is the largest part of the beauty industry, is now…

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Is the world really better than ever?

The long read: The headlines have never been worse. But an increasingly influential group of thinkers insists that humankind has never had it so good and only our pessimism is holding us back By the end of last year, anyone who had been paying even passing attention to the news headlines was highly likely to conclude that everything was terrible, and that the only attitude that made sense was one of profound pessimism tempered, perhaps, by cynical humour, on the principle that if the world is going to hell in…

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Rule that patients must finish antibiotics course is wrong, study says

Experts suggest patients should stop taking the drugs when they feel better rather than completing their prescription Telling patients to stop taking antibiotics when they feel better may be preferable to instructing them to finish the course, according to a group of experts who argue that the rule long embedded in the minds of doctors and the public is wrong and should be overturned. Patients have traditionally been told that they must complete courses of antibiotics, the theory being that taking too few tablets will allow the bacteria causing their…

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We are all made of stars: half our bodies’ atoms ‘formed beyond the Milky Way’

Simulations reveal that up to half the material in our galaxy arrived from smaller galactic neighbours, as a result of powerful supernova explosions Nearly half of the atoms that make up our bodies may have formed beyond the Milky Way and travelled to the solar system on intergalactic winds driven by giant exploding stars, astronomers claim. The dramatic conclusion emerges from computer simulations that reveal how galaxies grow over aeons by absorbing huge amounts of material that is blasted out of neighbouring galaxies when stars explode at the end of…

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