Edward Willett

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Circadian desynchrony and the blue light special

[podcast]http://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/12/Circadian-Deosynchrony-and-the-Blue-Light-Special.mp3[/podcast] We’re coming up on the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere: at the latitude I live at, in Regina, Saskatchewan, that means that today the sun rose at 8:49 a.m. and will set at 4:54 p.m. We’ll lose a few more minutes yet before the winter solstice. That’s not a lot of daylight: we spend two-thirds of our day in darkness this time of the year, and of course further north it’s even worse, until you get to the Arctic and twenty-four hours of sunlessness. Thank goodness for artificial light! It means we can live pretty much as we want without being a slave to the natural ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 15:09, December 10th, 2012 under Blog, Columns, Science Columns |

The case for coffee consumption

[podcast]http://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/12/The-Case-for-Coffee-Consumption_01.mp3[/podcast]I first wrote about coffee in a science column back in the dawn of time, so long ago that it began, “Let’s get one thing straight.  I don’t drink coffee...” Since as I type this I am on my second...or maybe third... good-sized cup (oh, all right, mug) of the stuff, something has clearly changed in the intervening years. And guess what? Apparently that’s all to the good of my health. Oh, I know, anyone of adult years remembers news stories about coffee drinking being bad for you, but as more research is done, quite the contrary has emerged as the scientific consensus: drinking coffee is good for you. To the extent that ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 15:02, December 3rd, 2012 under Blog, Columns, Science Columns |

Pop! goes nutrition

[podcast]http://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/03/Popcorn-Nutrition.mp3[/podcast] There’s nothing quite like the smell of popcorn. It makes you think of movie theatres, the circus, the midway. It makes you long for a handful. Or two. Or better yet, a whole bucket. And best of all, just this week some research results were released that indicate popcorn is also a very healthy food! I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, some background. Nobody knows who first popped popcorn, which is thought to have originated in Mexico. Ears found in the Bat Cave of West Central New Mexico were dated to some 5,600 years ago, and 1,000-year-old grains of popcorn found in tombs along the east coast of Peru were ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 17:31, March 26th, 2012 under Blog, Columns, Science Columns |

Of mice and man-flu

[podcast]http://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2011/10/Of-Mice-and-Man-Flu.mp3[/podcast] As any wife will tell you, men are lousy at being sick. They swear they’re on death’s door when it is quite apparent to their long-suffering significant other that in fact they are suffering from nothing more than a cold, nowhere near as bad as the one she had the week before when she not only went to work every day, she cleaned the house, did the grocery shopping, and took the kids to school, dance and piano lessons and hockey practice—which, come to think of it, she’s doing again this week. So, really, so what if he’s sick, since who can tell the difference? Well, the difference ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 16:10, October 17th, 2011 under Blog, Columns, Science Columns |

Stretching: the truth

[podcast]http://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2011/03/Stretching-the-Truth.mp3[/podcast] Exercise is good for you. It’s a shame, since I personally find the whole sweating/breathing hard/ hurting thing a (literal) pain, but I don’t believe I can mount a successful argument as to why sitting on your rear end eating junk food all day is actually better for you, even though evolution seems to have inclined us to do it. (It’s interesting to note that “survival of the fittest” is only one letter away from “survival of the fattest,” and one reason we’re so fond of high-calorie foods is that when food is in short supply, it really is the fattest who are the fittest to survive. But I digress.) I’m not ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 13:20, March 4th, 2011 under Blog, Columns, Science Columns |

Confessions of a cyberchondriac

A few years ago I wrote several children's books for the Diseases and People series put out by Enslow Publishers. It's amazing when you're writing about disease how easy it is to convince yourself you've got the symptoms of whatever you're writing about. The first book was Meningitis. Stiff neck? You bet. Of course, I was sitting and typing for hours on end, but I'm sure that was just a coincidence. I also wrote Arthritis (my fingers are still stiff), Ebola Virus (Ebola starts with flu-like symptoms; gee, thanks, that's specific!), Alzheimer's Disease (which I can barely even remember writing) and Hemophilia, ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 10:00, January 7th, 2011 under Blog |

It’s past your bedtime!

[podcast]http://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2011/01/Its-Past-Your-Bedtime.mp3[/podcast] Ah, New Year’s. A time for resolutions, typically focused on living more healthily. Apparently the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, not trusting us to do it ourselves, has decided to make our resolutions for us: it’s started 2011 with a series of stories lecturing Canadians on how unhealthy their lifestyle is, and started something called the “Live Right Now” initiative. Yes, apparently determined to live up to its nickname as “The Mother Corp.,” CBC is telling us to eat our vegetables, quit watching TV and go outside and play, always wear clean underwear in case we’re hit by a truck (OK, I may have made that one up) and, most motherly of all, to “Go to bed, it’s past your bedtime!” Apparently a CBC poll ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 13:04, January 5th, 2011 under Blog, Columns, Science Columns |

I get a box full of disease detectives!

Oh, all right, not the actual detectives themselves, but my latest book from Enslow, Disease-Hunting Scientist: Careers Hunting Deadly Disease. That's the cover at left. Here's the blurb from the back: Working from high-tech labs in Canada or remote villages in Africa, epedemiologists travel the world trying to keep us safe from deadly diseases. Learn how these "disease detectives" are coming up with new wayts to fight disease, and find out if you have what it takes to become an epidemiologist, too! I'd seen that before. What I hadn't seen, until the books arrived today, was this very nice cover quote from Jonathan M. Samet, MD, Professor ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 17:03, July 10th, 2009 under Blog |

Stop that stretching!

[podcast]http://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2009/07/Stretching.mp3[/podcast] There’s a perception that science is always reversing itself. If you don’t like what science has to say about, say, the health benefits or risks of a particular food (eggs, for example, or coffee), you only have to wait awhile until a contradictory study comes out. That’s because science progresses in fits and starts. Researchers put forward a possible explanation, a hypothesis, for the results of an experiment. Other researchers attempt to duplicate their results and refine the hypothesis. Sometimes the hypothesis is completely discarded, and a new hypothesis gains sway. But in the media, this slow process is seldom reported. It’s much easier to pick up on the report of a single study—particularly if it has startling results—and present the hypotheses ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 12:22, July 7th, 2009 under Blog, Columns, Science Columns |

Are cognitive shortcuts making us fat?

[podcast]http://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2009/06/Cognitive-Shortcuts-to-Obesity.mp3[/podcast] When we think about how we make decisions, we tend to imagine that we consider the facts of a situation carefully and logically, in a straightforward, step-by-step manner. But that process is, indeed, imaginary. The truth is that our brains prefer to do as little actual thinking as possible. They like shortcuts—and sometimes those shortcuts can get us into trouble. Take, for instance, what psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania call "Unit Bias," which, they say, “causes people to ignore vital, obvious information in their decision-making process, points to a fundamental flaw in the modern, evolved mind, and may also play a role in the American population's 30 years of weight gain.” The researchers conducted several studies with college-age participants. In one, the ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 20:50, June 17th, 2009 under Blog, Columns, Science Columns |