Health & Science

Commuting: The ultimate home wrecker?; Acidic oceans deafen fish; Job trends fuel obesity; The moon’s watery secret

Commuting: The ultimate home wrecker?

Commuting has been blamed for back problems, stress, and obesity, not to mention mindless drive-time radio. Now we can add divorce to that list. A new Swedish study says couples are 40 percent more likely to split up if one partner has a daily commute of longer than 45 minutes each way. Commuting may seem like “a positive thing because it means you don’t have to uproot your family” when you land a new job, study author Erika Sandow, a social geographer at Umea University, tells the Swedish Local. “But it can also be a strain on your relationship.” About one in six Americans has a round-trip daily commute of 90 minutes, and 3.5 million people have to travel that long just one way—twice as many as did 20 years ago. Commuting often results in a higher salary and better job opportunities, but experts say there are many ways living far from work puts pressure on a marriage. Since long-distance commuters are most often men, for example, their female partners tend to take on a disproportionate share of housekeeping duties—a common source of discord.

Acidic oceans deafen fish

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

A new British study shows that climate change may be robbing fish of their ability to hear—and thus avoid—danger, reports. As oceans absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, they become more acidic, and that process could lead to populations of “very lost fish,” University of Bristol biologist Steve Simpson says. He and his colleagues raised some baby clownfish in tanks of regular seawater and others in water with the higher levels of acidity that experts predict oceans will have in 2050. Then they played their subjects sound recordings of a coral reef, where predators of clownfish typically lurk. The clownfish in today’s seawater swam away from the loudspeaker, but those “in tomorrow’s environment” didn’t seem to notice the noise. That change suggests a “potentially devastating” effect of more-acidic seawater on sea creatures, Simpson says. Sound not only helps fish stay safe but also is crucial for finding food and mates. Scientists aren’t sure whether greater acidity disrupts a fish’s nervous system, harms hearing in another way, or changes the way sound travels through the water. But however it works, they say, it’s one more indication of the profound changes a warmer atmosphere could bring to oceans and sea life.

Job trends fuel obesity

A new report suggests that America’s obesity epidemic may have less to do with what we eat than with what we do all day. Only one in five workers puts in physically demanding hours today, as opposed to one in two in 1960, meaning we’re burning an average of up to 140 fewer calories per day. “The work environment has changed so much, we have to rethink how we’re going to attack this problem,” Timothy S. Church, an exercise researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, tells The New York Times. Church and his colleagues used computer modeling and government labor data to calculate how much energy workers expended on the job from 1960 to 2008. Their findings suggest that the decline in careers that require standing and moving around largely accounts for the near tripling of obesity levels over that period. Changing your office routine to include regular jaunts to the printer or walks to visit colleagues, Church and other experts now say, could be just as crucial to your health as hitting the gym during your free time.

The moon’s watery secret

Despite recent discoveries of ice in some of the moon’s shadowy craters, scientists had their reasons for thinking its interior was bone-dry. But a new analysis of lunar soil shows that the orb likely harbors underground water much as Earth does. That’s forcing researchers to “think hard” about how the moon formed, Erik Hauri, a geochemist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, tells Astronomers generally agree that a Mars-size body landed a glancing blow on Earth some 4.6 billion years ago, causing chunks of debris to break off and enter orbit before eventually fusing together to become our moon. They figured such an impact would have generated enough heat to boil away any water in those shards. But resifting through lunar dirt gathered on a 1972 Apollo mission, Hauri and his colleagues found heavy concentrations of water in microscopic crystals formed by long-ago volcanic eruptions. Scientists aren’t sure yet what the findings mean—except, Hauri says, that “there’s something fundamental about the physics” of the moon’s early years “that we don’t understand.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.