Health & Science
More coastal flooding coming
The effects of rising sea levels on coastal flooding could be worse than previously thought, reports the Los Angeles Times. A new study has found that if oceans rise by 4 to 8 inches—which is expected to happen by 2050, under current estimates—the frequency of severe coastal flooding around the world will likely double. Whereas previous global-scale projections accounted only for storm surges and tidal fluctuations, this new report also factored in the impact of waves. Researchers say Pacific islands and vulnerable tropical cities will be the first affected, because sea-level rises are proportionally more significant in areas where tidal ranges are smaller. But as sea levels rise, they warn, higher-latitude cities like New York, Los Angeles, and London will also see more severe floods. “It is pretty much inevitable that we are going to see increased frequency of extreme water levels,” says lead researcher Sean Vitousek of the University of Illinois at Chicago. “There is no way around this.”
Exercise prevents Alzheimer’s
A landmark study has confirmed what many neurologists have long believed: Exercise is good for the brain. Researchers analyzed data from more than 150 studies on how physical activity affects the risk for Alzheimer’s. They concluded beyond a doubt that older people who exercise regularly have a significantly lower risk of developing the progressive brain disorder than those who are inactive. The study also found that people with Alzheimer’s who keep physically active are better able to perform routine daily activities than those who are sedentary, MedicalDaily.com reports. “After evaluating all the research available,” says study author Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor at the University of British Columbia, “our panel agrees that physical activity is a practical, economical, and accessible intervention for both the prevention and management of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.” The study’s authors recommend that older people adhere to current federal guidelines: at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and muscle-building strength training at least twice a week.
Earliest humans from Europe?
Controversial new research has suggested that humans evolved from apes in Southern Europe, not Africa—a claim that, if true, could fundamentally change our understanding of human evolution. The theory is based on a new analysis of two fossils: a jawbone found in Greece and a tooth discovered in Bulgaria. They belong to Graecopithecus freybergi, an ape-like creature that lived between 7.18 million and 7.25 million years ago— about 200,000 years before the earliest known human ancestor. Using advanced new imaging techniques to examine the specimens, researchers found dental-root characteristics that they say are unique to humans and their ancestors, reports TheSmithsonian.com. If correct, that would make the Europe-based “El Graeco” our oldest human ancestor. Their claim has been widely disputed, however. Critics argue that sweeping conclusions about human evolution cannot be made on the basis of two poorly preserved dental fossils and that the preponderance of evidence still suggests the evolutionary split between apes and human ancestors took place in Africa. Study leader David Begun, a paleobiologist at the University of Toronto, says he is “the first to admit” that his evidence “is less than ideal” and that more fossils are needed.
Health scare of the week
Beware of pool parasites
With summer fast approaching, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning about a parasitic infection linked to swimming pools and water parks. Cryptosporidium, known as “crypto,” causes diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting. The hardy parasite—which is protected by an outer shell—can survive in properly chlorinated water for up to 10 days; swallowing even one mouthful of water contaminated with the parasite can result in about three weeks of dehydration and gastrointestinal misery. The CDC says there were at least 32 outbreaks caused by crypto in the U.S. last year—up from just 16 in 2014. Overall, crypto cases in the U.S. have roughly tripled since 2004, reports CBSNews.com. Federal health officials aren’t sure whether infections are on the rise or if greater awareness has led to more diagnoses, but they are urging parents to be extra vigilant. “Do not swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea,” advises the CDC’s Michele Hlavsa. “Protect yourself from getting sick by not swallowing the water in which you swim.”