21 April 2014

Microwaves and Nutrition

I had a friend mention to me that her naturopath recommended against microwaving food because it would lose more nutrition than other forms of cooking. I was skeptical so I checked in with the Oracle (google) and here's what I found:

Heat is the main culprit that is definitely implicated in the loss of nutritional value of food. The argument is turned around based on this fact and microwaving might be beneficial in the nutritional sense because it takes less time to cook.The New York Times article specifies some instances in which the evidence shows this to be true.

Another culprit is water. The New York Times article further points out how cooking vegetables in water takes out nutrients.

The CNN article goes into the details of various ways to rob your food of nutrients. 

But microwaves were always found not guilty of robbing nutrition from food.

New York Times
CNN Health
Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide

08 March 2014

Toilet Plume Risk: Does flushing with the toilet lid down protect us from disease?

I have a friend who brought this to my attention and so what follows is the results of doing my due diligence. My sources are listed at the end.

(Hat Tip to commenter Esprise Me at http://msgboard.snopes.com for asking similar questions back in 2006.)

  1. Does aerosolization occur as a result of flushing a toilet?
      If not, then this discussion is over and no action should be taken.

  2. If toilet aerosolization occurs, does this mean organisms are thereby introduced to faucets, mirrors, toothbrushes, etc.?
      If not, then this discussion is over and no action should be taken.

  3. If toilet aerosolization routinely introduces organisms throughout bathrooms, does it pose a significant health hazard?

  4. If aerosolization occurs and DOES NOT pose a significant health risk, then this is one of those basic germ facts o' life--you come into contact with them every day, and they're not gonna kill you.
      Then this discussion is over and no action should be taken.

  5. If aerosolization occurs and DOES pose a significant health risk, would closing the toilet lid actually do anything to reduce the risk? (It's not like it forms an airtight seal!)

  6. If aerosolization DOES pose a significant health risk would any risk reduction be significant enough to justify badgering people who share my bathroom to start closing the lid when they use the toilet and thereby potentially damaging my relationships with them?

      a. If not, then discussion ends and action should be taken privately. If you choose to act as if this is true anyway and also cannot resist the urge to share then it should be done in a manner that neither expresses nor implies that this behavior is reasonably expected of others (it might be UNreasonably expected, but that goes with the territory of sharing spaces with intimate partners and is OK as long as it's acknowledged as an unreasonable expectation).

      b. If so, evangelize this hygienic revelation!

Based on a Snopes discussion from 2006, an episode of MythBusters from 2004, and a New York Times article from 2012 (linked below):

  1. Aerosolization does occur from toilet flushing.

  2. Organisms are routinely introduced throughout bathrooms (though there may be other explanations besides toilet aerosolization as the Myth Busters found out in their experiment).

  3. That aerosolization occurs and DOES NOT pose a significant health risk is the conclusion that was reached by Mythbusters.

  4. IF aerosolization DID pose a significant health risk then closing the toilet lid would NOT reduce the risk. This is a conclusion that a commenter at Snopes.com claimed was reached by Mythbusters, but the episode in question did not address it at all. However, given that they had control toothbrushes in an area separate from the bathroom and still got fecal coliform introduced, then it is probably safe to say that the bacteria have other transportation options besides toilet aerosolization. 

  5. The New York Times article says the scientific evidence is non-conclusive. “[A] new review article finds that there are as yet no direct cases of proven infection, and that the possible risk is still unknown.”

  6. Evangelizing does not appear to be warranted since the advocated behavior of closing the lid before flushing would appear to have little or no effect on reducing the introduction of organisms throughout the bathroom since that seems to occur independent of toilet flushing.

Source URLs:

03 November 2013

Howard Gardner on Learning Styles vs Intelligences

I'm pasting the text here so it does not get lost in the sands of time, but here's the link to the original.

By Howard Gardner

It’s been 30 years since I developed the notion of “multiple intelligences.” I have been gratified by the interest shown in this idea and the ways it’s been used in schools, museums, and businesses around the world. But one unanticipated consequence has driven me to distraction—and that’s the tendency of many people, including persons whom I cherish, to credit me with the notion of ‘learning styles’ or to collapse ‘multiple intelligences’ with ‘learning styles.’ It’s high time to relieve my pain and to set the record straight.
First a word about “MI theory.” On the basis of research in several disciplines, including the study of how human capacities are represented in the brain, I developed the idea that each of us has a number of relatively independent mental faculties, which can be termed our “multiple intelligences.” The basic idea is simplicity itself. A belief in a single intelligence assumes that we have one central, all-purpose computer—and it determines how well we perform in every sector of life. In contrast, a belief in multiple intelligences assumes that we have a number of relatively autonomous computers—one that computes linguistic information, another spatial information, another musical information, another information about other people, and so on. I estimate that human beings have 7 to 10 distinct intelligences (see www.multipleintelligencesoasis.org).

Even before I spoke and wrote about “MI,” the term “learning styles” was being bandied about in educational circles. The idea, reasonable enough on the surface, is that all children (indeed, all of us) have distinctive minds and personalities. Accordingly, it makes sense to find out about learners and to teach and nurture them in ways that are appropriate, that they value, and—above all—that are effective.

Two problems. First, the notion of  ”learning styles”’ is itself not coherent. Those who use this term do not define the criteria for a style, nor where styles come from, how they are recognized/assessed/exploited. Say that Johnny is said to have a learning style that is ‘impulsive.” Does that mean that Johnny is “‘impulsive” about everything? How do we know this?  What does this imply about teaching—should we teach “impulsively,” or should we compensate by “teaching reflectively?” What of a learning style that is “right-brained” or visual or tactile? Same issues apply.

Problem #2. When researchers have tried to identify learning styles, teach consistently with those styles, and examine outcomes, there is not persuasive evidence that the learning style analysis produces more effective outcomes than a “one size fits all approach.” Of course, the learning style analysis might have been inadequate. Or even if it is on the mark, the fact that one intervention did not work does not mean that the concept of learning styles is fatally flawed; another intervention might have proved effective. Absence of evidence does not prove non-existence of a phenomenon; it signals to educational researchers: ‘back to the drawing boards.’

Here’s my considered judgment about the best way to parse this lexical terrain:

Intelligence: We all have the multiple intelligences. But we single out, as a strong intelligence, an area where the person has considerable computational power. Your ability to win regularly at a game involving spatial thinking signals strong spatial intelligence. Your ability to speak a foreign language well after just a few months of ‘going native’ signals strong linguistic intelligence.

Style or Learning Style: A style is a hypothesis of how an individual approaches the range of materials. If an individual has a “reflective style,” he is hypothesized to be reflective about the full range of materials. We cannot assume that reflectiveness in writing necessarily signals reflectiveness in one’s interaction with others. But if reflectiveness truly obtains across the board, educators should take that style seriously.

Senses: Sometimes people speak about a “visual” learner or an “auditory” learner. The implication is that some people learn through their eyes, others through their ears. This notion is incoherent. Both spatial information and reading occur with the eyes, but they make use of entirely different cognitive faculties. Similarly, both music and speaking activate the ears, but again these are entirely different cognitive faculties. Recognizing this fact, the concept of intelligences does not focus on how linguistic or spatial information reaches the brain—via eyes, ears, hands, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the power of the mental computer, the intelligence, that acts upon that sensory information, once picked up.

These distinctions are consequential. My goal here is not to give a psychology or a physiology or a physics lesson but rather to make sure that we do not fool ourselves and, as important, that we do not short change our children. If people want to talk about ‘an impulsive style’ or ‘a visual learner,’ that’s their prerogative. But they should recognize that these labels may be unhelpful, at best, and ill-conceived at worst.

In contrast, there is strong evidence that human beings have a range of intelligences and that strength (or weakness) in one intelligence does not predict strength (or weakness) in any other intelligences. All of us exhibit jagged profiles of intelligences. There are common sense ways of assessing our own intelligences, and if it seems appropriate, we can take a more formal test battery. And then, as teachers, parents, or self- assessors, we can decide how best to make use of this information.

As an educator, I draw three primary lessons for educators:
1.       Individualize your teaching as much as possible. Instead of “one size fits all,” learn as much as you can about each student, and teach each person in ways that they find comfortable and learn effectively. Of course this is easier to accomplish with smaller classes. But ‘apps’ make it possible to individualize for everyone.
2.        Pluralize your teaching. Teach important materials in several ways, not just one (e.g. through stories, works of art, diagrams, role play). In this way you can reach students who learn in different ways. Also, by presenting materials in various ways, you convey what it means to understand something well. If you can only teach in one way, your own understanding is likely to be thin.
3.       Drop the term “styles.” It will confuse others and it won’t help either you or your students.