Summer brings the heat — and in some cases a lot of it, as those who suffered through record-breaking heat waves in Europe and South Asia in June can attest. But the season also ushers in long days filled with plenty of possibilities for outdoor fun. Parks fill with picnickers. Mountain trails fill with hikers. And beaches and pools swarm with swimmers trying to beat the heat.
Heres what science has to tell us about some of our favorite summer activities.
Frolicking in forests
Theres hiking, and then theres shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of “forest bathing.” Those who forest bathe walk slowly and breathe deeply — almost like a form of meditation. Developed in the 1980s, forest bathing has been gaining in popularity in the United States over the last few years. At least three books about the practice were published in the United States in 2018. Spending time among trees may improve health, from boosting the immune system to lowering blood pressure, the thinking goes. Some small studies have indicated possible benefits, an analysis published in 2017 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found. Research is ongoing.
In the forests of Tennessees Great Smoky Mountains, spectators gather each summer to watch fireflies put on a dazzling synchronized light show. Scientists still arent sure why those flashes sync up. One lingering mystery that has been solved, though, is why the insects behinds blink in the first place. Besides attracting mates, the light is also a warning to predators, scientists have found. In laboratory experiments, bats took about twice as long to learn that fireflies tasted bad when the bugs lights were covered by black paint. The findings confirmed a theory first proposed by entomologists in 1882.
Do you know where your summer tan comes from? The suns ultraviolet rays are responsible for most of it, but UV light from nearby stars and other galaxies contributes a tiny bit — less than one-billionth of 1 percent of it, to be exact. Even light from the Big Bang contributes roughly 0.001 percent, astronomers have calculated.
If youre working on perfecting that tan, sit poolside every other day — your skin will get darker and avoid some damage. Thats because skin produces melanin, a protective pigment, in 48-hour cycles, researchers say. Sunbathing day-after-day can disrupt this cycle and leave skin vulnerable to ultraviolet rays — and sunburn. And of course, dont forget the sunscreen.
Words of warning
Animals have all sorts of ways to beat the heat, from blowflies cooling their drool to toucans boosting blood flow to their big beaks. We humans often tend to flock to swimming pools and beaches to cool off. Before diving in, though, here are some rules of thumb to ensure a safer swim:
Dont pee in the pool. The chlorine in pool water reacts with nitrogen in urine to produce a toxic chemical called cyanogen chloride. This chemical, which acts like a tear gas, is classifiRead More – Source