Toxic Alaska, and other findings from the world of research

  • Alaska the most toxic state in the U.S. It’s a favourite destination for the cruise ship lines because of its rugged wilderness, but it’s hardly unspoiled. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory, Alaska was home to the largest amount of toxic waste in the United States in 2008 — nearly 567.8 million pounds (257.5 million kilograms) of toxic releases. This put America’s northernmost state well ahead of runners-up Ohio, Utah, Indiana, Texas and Nevada. The least toxic state: Vermont (with lower counts registered in Guam, D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa, which are not technically ‘states’).
  • The Meh Generation. A study from University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research came to the conclusion that today’s U.S. college students are more likely to be indifferent to the feelings of others than those of 20 or 30 years ago. The findings arise from “standard tests of this personality trait” undertaken in 72 studies of U.S. college students between 1979 and 2009 according to researcher Sara Konrath. This included lower levels of agreement with statements like “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.”
  • Cannabis leaving people “dim and demented”. Researchers at the University of Wollongong in Australia have found further evidence that cannabis use has long-term negative effects on the brain. Despite finding evidence that cannabis users sometimes perform some tasks better than non-users due to the brain’s ability to adapt to changes caused by drug use, the buildup of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is associated with ongoing cannabis use makes even simple tasks more difficult to perform, and puts users at greater risk of developing dementia in later years. “It is kind of like if you are driving your car down a freeway and the freeway is the most efficient neural pathway,” explained clinical psychologist Robert Battista. “[Cannabis users might find] the road has potholes or there is fog so that it is more effortful, more resources have to go into doing that same task.”
  • Outdoor breaks better than indoor breaks. Pity the poor industrial park worker who has nowhere to go for a walk on his or her break. A test of 537 students at the University of Rochester found that those who took a short break in natural, open-air surroundings were more refreshed by the experience than those who took indoor walks or who had more sedentary breaks. “”Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee,” said University of Rochester psychology professor Richard Ryan, “but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.”
  • The one European city guaranteed not to be overrun by tourists. Parisians might be perpetually fed up with their city being overrun by les touristes, but it’s not a problem in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. One critical reason: Mercer, the global human resources corporation, ranked Minsk as Europe’s worst city in a 2008 study, out of a total of 183 cities examined. The study, which looked at 39 factors for each city, was denounced as “pure political vileness” by one Minsk resident, a professor at the city’s National Technical University. Another resident, however, tended to agree with the study’s findings. “Here, the only places open at night are the casinos and train station,” the unnamed woman said.
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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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