Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 in Current Events

Too Much Milk?

You’ve probably grown up hearing that milk “does a body good.” However, researchers have discovered that drinking too much milk can actually be harmful to children’s bodies.

Cow’s milk is an inexpensive and plentiful source of essential nutrients such as protein, fat, calcium, and vitamin D. A one-cup serving of dairy milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium, which helps build strong bones and teeth; 8 grams of protein, which builds muscles; 232 milligrams of phosphorus, which supports muscle, kidney, and nerve function; and 117 units of vitamin D. For this reason, most pediatricians recommend that young children consume between one-and-a-half and two cups of dairy milk per day.

Drinking more than that recommended amount, however, can actually prove harmful to a child’s health. Cow’s milk is naturally low in iron and inhibits the absorption of iron in the body, so children who drink too much milk can become iron deficient or even anemic. A lack of iron can also cause problems with brain development. Drinking too much milk is also a problem because children who drink five or six cups of milk a day meet about half of their daily caloric needs from milk alone, meaning that they don’t have room left over to consume other nutritious foods. For these reasons, doctors recommend limiting milk consumption for any child who drinks more than 24 ounces of milk a day on a regular basis.

Dig Deeper Using the Internet, research alternatives to dairy milk, such as soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, and even fortified juice. Compare the nutritional value of one serving of dairy milk to one serving of one of these alternatives. If you were a pediatrician, would you recommend your patients drink cow’s milk, or another alternative? Why? Be sure to provide facts to back up your position.

“Slacktivism”: Volunteer Computing

Would you like to play a role in researching a cure for ebola or analyzing radio telescope data from space, all without spending a dime or ever leaving your home? With volunteer computing, you can.

old personal compputer with monitor, keyboard, mouse

Credit: Collage_Best/Getty Images

Volunteer computing has been around since the mid-1990s but has been largely forgotten in recent years. Here is how it works: You donate a small portion of your computer’s excess computational power so that scientists involved in cutting-edge research projects around the globe can do their work much more quickly and efficiently. “Slacktivists” who wish to participate need only to download software, install it, and then sign up for a project (or projects). Volunteers remain anonymous, and anyone who owns a computer or Android device is able to participate.

The process is not totally risk-free; it’s possible (though unlikely) that hackers could try to compromise the data. It’s important that the software you use comes from a reputable academic or research institution. For example, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC)–the best-known volunteer computing software platform–has a one hundred percent clean security track record. And any risks are far outweighed by the potential benefits. Because of the huge number of PCs in the world, volunteer computing can supply more power to science than any other type of computing. It also encourages the public to take an interest in science and research.

So if you have always dreamed of participating in the fight against AIDS or cancer, or want to support projects that research clean energy for our future, volunteer computing may be for you!

What Do You Think? Would you consider donating a small portion of your computer’s resources and energy to science? Why or why not? Using the Internet, research some of the projects available through BOINC and the World Community Grid. If you were going to participate in volunteer computing, which project(s) would you choose, and why?

“Keep Them Ruby”: Saving Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers

Since 1979, the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz have been housed safely on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. However, after nearly 80 years, the shoes have started to show some serious signs of wear and tear. Because they were originally created as movie props, they were never meant to hold up for so long, and now the bright red color is fading and the threads holding the sparkly sequins on are beginning to break. The layer of red felt on the soles that was put there to muffle the sound of Dorothy dancing on the yellow brick road is also deteriorating, and the paint on the arches has chipped away.

In an effort to save the shoes, the Smithsonian has lauched a $300,000 Kickstarter campaign called “Keep Them Ruby.” The goal of the project is not to restore the ruby slippers to their original state, but rather to preserve them as they are and to prevent any additional damage. Accomplishing this will take two conservators and five scientists within the Smithsonian, as well as additional outside consultants, as long as nine months to a year to complete. The shoes are constructed of at least twelve different materials, each of which reacts differently to the environment. Part of the money will be used to build a special display case that is temperature-controlled and possibly oxygen-free.

Some people have argued that the Smithsonian should not use private fundraising (such as Kickstarter) when it already receives federal money. However, a press release from the Smithsonian argues that while federal funding supports the museum’s core operations, private donations are still needed for other projects. So far, the public seems to agree: in just the first three days of the campaign, which launched last week, over $165,600 has already come in from nearly 3,000 private donors. So while it may take more than just clicking one’s heels together, it looks like Dorothy’s ruby slippers might be saved after all.

What Do You Think? Should the Smithsonian be allowed to request private funds to pay for the restoration of the ruby slippers? Why or why not? Weigh the immense cost of the restoration process ($300,000) against the importance of preserving the shoes as an American cultural symbol. Is saving the slippers a good investment? Why or why not? Be sure to supply reasons to support your answer.

Nutella Craze Reaches the West Bank

Have you ever had a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich? How about a Nutella crepe? In the last few years, Nutella cafes have been springing up all over the world, offering Nutella-themed menu items from crepes to kebabs. Nutella–a sweetened hazelnut cocoa spread–is made by the Italian company Ferrero. It was introduced to the market in 1964, and is now available in 75 countries. While Nutella’s health benefits are dubious, there is no disputing its popularity: a jar is sold every 2.5 seconds around the world.

It is no surprise, then, that restaurant owners all over the globe have found new and inventive ways to capitalize off of the Nutella craze. Nut’Leiria, in Portugal, sells refrigerated Nutella kebabs. Pizzeria Nutella in Venice, Italy, is famous for its Nutella cocktails and ice creams. Nuts Nutelleria in Syracuse, Italy, offers customers Nutella frappes and homemade Nutella cakes. In New York City, there is even a mobile Nutella bar, called Nutella-Mobile.

What may be surprising, however, is that over the past two years, several Nutella cafes have opened up in the war-torn, Israeli-occupied West Bank. The most recent is the Nutella shop in Jerusalem’s Shuafat Palestinian refugee camp. The camp, set up for Palestinian refugees in the 1960s, suffers from high rates of unemployment, drug use, and violence; a lack of reliable basic services such as trash collection, water, and electricity; and regular clashes with the Israeli Security Forces. It seems like an unlikely place to put a Nutella café. However, the shop provides a much-needed space for women, young people, and families to relax and enjoy delicious food. The café was started by Ismail Ayham, 23, who is from a nearby town in Jerusalem and spent about $31,000 to build the café from scratch. So far, despite the challenges Shuafat faces, business has remained strong. The shop sells Nutella crepes and waffles, and is decorated brightly with large photos of the menu items, passages from the Quran, and even a picture of a woman holding an Arabic sign reading “If Nutella was a man, I’d marry it.”

The cheerful café provides a stark contrast to the conditions of the refugee camp. It’s a safe haven, particularly for women and families: a place where they can feel “normal” for a little while, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy a delicious sweet treat at the same time.

Dig Deeper Using the Internet, locate a map of the Shuafat refugee camp, and then research the conditions inside of it. Write a short paragraph describing one of the challenges faced by residents of the Shuafat camp. Present your findings to the class.