Monthly Archives: July 2017

You probably haven’t heard of nature deficit disorder — but you could still have it.

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When’s the last time you spent time in nature?

Real nature — not you standing under a tree for shade so you could see your cellphone screen better before hopping your city’s subway system.

When was the last time you actually sat on some real green grass, surrounded by living trees, plants, and wildlife that doesn’t consist of the pigeon you’ve named Joe that hangs out on your apartment window?

If it’s "been a while," you could actually have something called "nature deficit disorder."

If you have never heard of nature deficit disorder, you’re not alone.

While it’s not exactly a medical term, according to the man who coined the term — Richard Louv — there are very real problems that result from people losing their connection to nature. "[It’s] a useful term — a metaphor — to describe what many of us believe are the human costs of alienation from nature," he explains over email.

Louv in his garden. Image via Richard Louv, used with permission.

"Human beings have been moving more of their activities indoors since the invention of agriculture then, later, the Industrial Revolution," he explains.

Urbanization has only made the problem worse. Today, over half the world’s population live in urban areas, and according to the World Health Organization, over the next few decades, that number is expected to keep rising.

This means more and more people are living in crowded cities with very little access to parks, grass, or even a playground — which can take a huge toll on health.

Technology also makes everything harder — causing us all to spend more time staring at a screen than a real, live tree. This can wreak havoc on our mental and physical health.

That’s why Louv has spent his career trying to raise awareness for this issue and convince people to spend more time outdoors.

Growing up in Missouri and Kansas, Louv spent much of his childhood playing in the woods with his dog. But as he grew up, he began to realize just how difficult it was for him to find the time to spend outdoors.

Work, family and technology demands just made it tough for him to step away.

In fact, the only way he could "build" nature into his schedule was to take full-on "techno-fasts" with his wife, leaving all electronics behind as they disappeared into the mountains for a few days at a time.

Of course, it didn’t take Louv long to realize this struggle to find time for nature wasn’t unique to him or his family, so he decided to throw himself headfirst into researching this problem.

The result was three books, and numerous articles in publications like The New York Times, to plead his case with parents everywhere to make time for nature.

He also co-founded the Children and Nature Network, an organization dedicated to connecting families and communities to nature and the tools they need to make "nature time" a reality.

The good news is that it isn’t hard to "treat" nature deficit disorder — it just takes a little effort and, obviously, some time outdoors.

"We all can create new natural habitats in and around our homes, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, cities and suburbs, so that, even in inner cities, our children grow up in nature — not with it, but in it," Louv says.

And the truth is, you don’t even have to spend a ton of time outdoors to start feeling the benefits of nature.

Start by looking for your closest park and go there. Take the whole family, and spend the day exploring. Take a hike if you’re up for it, or spend the whole day lounging by a lake.

"We need to schedule nature time," Louv says.

Every little bit helps.

Research shows that even a small dose of nature can reduce stress, lessen negative thoughts, and have positive effects on psychological well-being.

Some studies even suggest that bouts with nature can boost short-term memory, reduce inflammation, and improve your vision.  

And for kids, the benefits are even better.

"Studies strongly suggest that time in nature can help many children learn to build confidence in themselves," Louv explains, and it can help calm them down and focus in school.

Image by by Annie Spratt/Unsplash.

He notes, "Time spent in nature is obviously not a cure-all, but it can be an enormous help, especially for kids who are stressed by circumstances beyond their control."  

Contact with nature, Louv continues, allows children to see they are part of a larger world that includes them.

"Studies show that people who care deeply about the future of the environment almost always enjoyed transcendent experiences in nature when they were children," he says.

Spending time outdoors doesn’t just benefit us individually, it can also transform our relationship with the world around us.

"If nature experiences continue to fade from the current generation of young people, and the next, and the ones to follow, where will future stewards of the earth come from?" Louv says.

It is his hope that by getting parents involved in bringing nature to their kids early and frequently that we can all, collectively, change our relationship to the natural world for the better.

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Pulsars – rapidly spinning stellar corpses that appear to pulse – were discovered 50 yrs ago. Discover their secret… https://t.co/8slTIZvHUE

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Confusion, Fear, Cynicism: Why People Don’t Report Hate Incidents

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by Ken Schwencke

It is one of the most striking and curious statistics contained in a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report on hate crimes in America: 54 percent of the roughly 250,000 people who said they were victimized in recent years chose not to file a formal complaint with the authorities.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation, an advocacy organization based in Colorado that played a role in successfully pushing for national hate crime legislation, has recently tried to better understand the phenomenon. The foundation began asking the Denver residents notifying the organization about being victimized to explain why they did or did not report the incident to the police.

The effort began in February and so far has produced a modest 15 responses — not all of which appear to be crimes. But in a country largely bereft of reliable or probing data on hate crimes, the information collected by the foundation has value.

The foundation, which shared its data as part of our Documenting Hate project, agreed to make public some of the responses to the question on reporting to authorities. The responses are anonymous, but they offer glimpses into the mix of forces at work when victims are deciding what to do: confusion about the definition of hate crimes; skepticism of the commitment by law enforcement to aggressively investigate; fear of retaliation.

“They echo what other organizations have heard through listening sessions, meetings, and the national victims of crime survey responses,” said Jason Marsden, the foundation’s executive director, referencing the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report.

For one transgender person who reported that homophobic slurs and beer cans were hurled at them, the answer to why they reported the assault to the police was clear: "To get these men charged with a crime.”

For others, there was confusion as to whether what happened to them was worth reporting to the police.

One of the responses came from a gay woman who had felt menaced by a drunk man, who screamed at her: “You fucking dykes are all going to hell.” The woman said her main concern was to flee the scene as quickly as possible.

She said it was also far from clear to her that the menacing amounted to a crime, “since it was just mean words.” It would take a real investigation to answer her uncertainty, but it’s quite likely the incident didn’t qualify as a prosecutable crime.

A Hispanic woman walking through her neighborhood wrote that she felt sexually harassed by passengers in a passing car.

“Working or walking?” she said they asked her. She didn’t call the cops.

“It is just expected that women have to deal with this and it is a fact of our lives,” she wrote. “On a more logistical level,” she added, “I did not get the license plate number.”

A gay woman with short hair reported that another woman tried to bar her from entering the women’s room at a McDonald’s, believing she was transgender.

It was “pointless to report,” she said, though she added she had to physically move the woman from her path.

A number of the respondents did call the police, to mixed effect.

A gay, black man at a rally against President Trump’s travel ban said a passenger in a passing vehicle threw an egg at his face. When he contacted the Denver Police Department, “the dispatcher seemed unsympathetic,” he reported. “No police officer came to my assistance, although I felt I was in distress.”

Another gay man said he was followed around a store by an angry man who yelled homophobic slurs at him. “I refuse to allow anyone to attack me like this, so I reported it,” he wrote. He went on to say, without further explanation, that when it was all over, he wound up being ticketed by the police for “disturbing the peace.”

A disabled lesbian woman in the city’s suburbs said a neighbor tried to run her down with his car. She said she wanted to call the police, but that she was afraid.

Documenting Hate

Hate crimes and bias incidents are a national problem, but there’s no reliable data on their nature or prevalence. We’re collecting reports to create a national database for use by journalists and civil-rights organizations. See the project.

What We Know — And Don’t Know — About Hate Crimes in America

It’s been about six months since we joined forces with newsrooms around the country to track hate. We’ve collected information on thousands of incidents, but much remains unknown about the scale of the problem. Read the story.

“I often think I will not be believed or taken seriously,” she wrote. When she called the police anyway, she asked the officers not to confront the man, fearing retaliation for filing a report.

“I knew that reporting the incident was important — both to notify authorities to have the incident documented, to have evidence of harassment on file in the event of a future incident, and because no matter who I am or what my sexuality is, I knew this was wrong and potentially criminal,” she wrote.

When a recently disabled gay man said he was attacked by another man who’d asked for bus fare, he said he was prevented from calling the police by his assailant. “Faggot, you calling the police,” the man reportedly said as he punched the victim. Luckily, he wrote, someone else called the authorities for him. He thought the cops were great.

“They were very compassionate,” he wrote, adding that the officers offered to have a victim advocate talk with him, and came back later to check on him.

In all, most of the people surveyed did not report incidents to the police.

“My take on the results mostly is that people are not reporting because they just don’t think the police are going to take it seriously enough, or they don’t think the incident went to that level,” said Stephen Griffin, who the foundation contracted with to implement the survey.

Christine Downs, a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department, said by email that even if a person doesn’t believe what happened to them was a crime, they should report the incident to the police.

“The Denver Police Department strongly encourages all residents to report crime, regardless of how insignificant they may think it is, especially bias-motivated crimes,” she said.

Marsden, the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s executive director, plans to try to expand their survey to other cities to keep learning more about why people don’t report incidents of hate, and to take what they learn to the police officers they work with.

“I think that can help keep people safe and help on the prevention side of things,” he said. “You have to be an optimist in this line of work.”

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I argue that men avoid ball-kicking to protect the myth of masculinity; men respond in the most surprising way

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In 2015 I wrote a essay in which I speculated about why we don’t see men kicking each other in the balls more often. We leave no stone unturned here at SocImages, folks.

I argued that men don’t kick each other in the balls because it would reveal to everyone an inherent and undeniable biological weakness in every man, not just the man getting kicked.  In other words, it’s a secret pact to protect the myth of masculine superiority.

I expected a reaction, but I was genuinely surprised at what transpired. In public — in the comments — men debated strategy, arguing that men don’t kick each other in the balls because it’s actually a difficult blow to land or would escalate the fight. But in private – in my email inbox – men sent me hushed messages of you-are-so-right-though.

This is interesting because people rarely bother to go to the trouble of googling me, finding my email address, and writing me a note. The comments thread is right there and there’s a link to my twitter account at the end of the post. Most people criticize or compliment me publicly. Moreover, the emails have never stopped coming. I get one now every couple months — almost two years later – which I think means that ball kicking is something men (and it’s always men) are quietly seeking information about. And the post I wrote continues to strike a chord.

So, what do they say in private to me?

The one I received today was characteristic and the guy who wrote it gave me permission to share some of it. I’ll call him “Guy.”

First, Guy agreed that the vulnerability of having testicles is distressing to him specifically because he has been taught that boys and men are supposed to be stronger than girls and women.

Boys usually think of themselves as being tough and we want to be tough and tougher than girls especially. The idea that a girl could hurt a big strong boy like me is ridiculous right. But then I got older and learned about testicles and that girls didnt have them and i was embarrassed that I had a weak spot and they didn’t.

Second, he acknowledged that knowing that other people know about this vulnerability adds to the stress of having it.

I always hate in movies when a guy gets hit in the balls and drops especially if a woman did the kicking and if I am watching it with women. I don’t want anyone to know I have a weak spot or to acknowledge it. I still try to workout and be big and strong but I always feel vulnerable down there. My older sister and i used to play fight and i started getting bigger than her and winning. Then one time she faked a kick to my groin and i jumped back and covered myself. She had this self satisfied smurk on her face like ya dont mess with me and i never did again.

This vulnerability, Guy emphasizes, isn’t just a trivial thing; it’s everything. It affects how he feels about his whole body (“your only as strong as your weakest link”) and it’s psychologically consuming (“I hate knowing this”).

Your only as strong as your weakest link and guys have the weakest link on the body. I hate knowing this and I’m afraid women realize this and I think alot of guys feel the same even if they dont admit it.

“They dont admit it,” Guy writes, which means it’s a secret shame. And, like many of the men who’ve emailed me, he thanks me for putting it out there in public and says that it’s a relief to actually talk about it.

Anyway I think you really hit a nerve with this article and I think its kinda therapeutic to talk about it cause I usually keep it to myself. Keep up the good work and Take Care!

I think this is amazing.

I’m touched, first of all, by the emotional vulnerability that Guy and the other (mostly young) men who’ve emailed me have shown. Behind all of the pretending like they’re a “big strong boy,” these guys are nervous, worried that their front is going to be exposed and everyone is going to see them as a fraud and a failure. Not a Real Man at all.

In fact, they know that everyone already sees them that way. The sister’s smirk tells Guy, in no uncertain terms, that his front is transparent. “I won’t expose you,” it says. “Not today. But I can and we both know it.” No matter how hard he tries — no matter how big his biceps or bank account, no matter how corner his office is or how hot his wife – he’s got those goddamn testicles and they’re right there.

Guy explains that it makes him want to compensate. He works out to be “big and strong.” But it’ll never be enough. He says, “I always feel vulnerable down there.” He feels vulnerable anyway. There’s really nothing he can do.

This is telling us something profound about what it feels like to be a man in America today. Told to be live up to an impossible standard of invulnerability; they inevitably feel like failures. Told specifically to be more invulnerable than (and not vulnerable to) women, by biological accident, they’re not. What a cruel twist of the testicles. It hurts.

And I wonder how much of what men do in their lives is a response to this psychic injury. How many of Donald Trump’s shenanigans, for example, have to do with the fact that he knows, and he knows that everyone knows, that someone could just drop him with a kick to the balls at any time? It sounds absurd to blame the risk of nuclear war on Trump’s testicles, but these young men are telling me that, right around puberty — as they are graduating from boys to men, doubling down on their difference from girls and women, and being told that to earn others’ esteem they have to be bigger and stronger — they have a disturbing revelation that compels them to embark on a lifetime of proving they’re not weak.

Until we all agree to let men be human, they’re going to keep living lives of quiet desperation. And the rest of us have to keep fearing what they will do to avoid being exposed.

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Nvidia Takes on Challenge of Improving AR

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VRFocus have already reported on the challenges that are facing virtual reality (VR) and its continued development with regards to human vision and perception, but little so far has been said about the similar problems facing augmented reality (AR) as that area also continues to grow and develop. Graphics card manufacturers Nvidia are taking on that very issue.

Nvidia Inventions, the Research and Development area of Nvidia, are working on two areas that are relevant to VR and AR. The first involves what researchers have dubbed ‘varifocal displays’. As discussed by Michael Abrash in his Oculus Blog post, fixed-focus VR and AR displays can present a problem to human vision, using new research, Nvidia re working on a new type of optical layout that uses a holographic back-projection to display virtual images. This new technology could also lead to VR and AR displays that are thinner and lighter than currently available headsets.

Another project that Nvidia are working on in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, Saarland University and Max-Planck Institute involves a deformable membrane mirror for each eye which means the mirror can be adjusted depending on where a separate -eye-tracking system sees the user is looking.

nvidia AR research

Nvidia are also working on Haptic feedback systems to enhance the immersion of VR and AR. One prototype system is a VR controller that allows users to experience different textures as they play, its soft skin able to produce force-feedback as well as replicate the feel of different materials and textures.

The second project involves a squishy foam sword such as children might play with, which can transform in a moment to feel like the solid cord-wrapped handle of a katana, or the sold metal of a broadsword hilt. Nvidia have already integrated those two types of haptic controllers into its in-house VR Funhouse experience, so users can feel the solid hit of a mallet in whack-a-mole, or feel the recoil of a gun in a shooting gallery.

VRFocus will continue to bring you news of research into new VR/AR display and feedback methods.

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Opioid abuse started as a rural epidemic. It’s now a national one.

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In June 2016, Erika Marble visits the gravesite of Edward Martin III, her fiance and the father of her two children, in Littleton, N.H. The 28-year-old died in November 2014 of an opioid overdose. (Jim Cole/AP)

Many people associate the prescription opioid epidemic with rural America, where “hillbilly heroin,” as OxyContin is sometimes called, has claimed many lives. But new research shows that opioid misuse and addiction are now as prevalent in urban areas and suburbs as they are in rural ones.

A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services analyzed nationally representative survey data to determine how prescription opioids are used and misused in large metropolitan areas (with a population of greater than 1 million), small metropolitan areas (50,000 to 1 million) and non-metropolitan areas. The study found that the proportion of the population using prescribed opioids in the past 12 months was sizable and of similar magnitude across large metropolitan areas (36.0 percent), small metropolitan areas (40.1 percent) and non-metropolitan areas (39.9 percent).

Source: Study by Beth Han and colleagues in Annals of Internal Medicine

The investigators then dug into the data on those individuals who had used prescription opioids. They determined how many survey participants misused prescription opioids but had not (at least not yet) developed a serious enough problem to warrant a medical diagnosis of opioid user disorder, as well as how many were misusing opioids and experiencing sufficient harm and signs of addiction to meet such diagnostic criteria.  Opioid misuse without a diagnosis of disorder was not concentrated in rural areas. In fact the rate was, if anything, slightly higher (11.3 percent) in big cities than in nonmetropolitan areas (9.0 percent). The prevalence of opioid use disorder also varied little across geographic areas.

These findings don’t erase the fact that rural areas face unique challenges regarding prescription opioids. Outside urban areas, health-care professionals who can treat addicted patients are in short supply and first responders to overdose emergencies, when every second counts, often have significant distances to travel.  That said, it is no longer appropriate to describe prescription opioid addiction as a rural phenomenon, because it has spread throughout cities, suburbs and towns. What was once a rural epidemic is now a national one.

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