Michael Pollan's New Food Rule: Take Control of Your Plate
Just in time for Thanksgiving, Michael Pollan has come out with a brand new food rule, which if followed would do wonders for wasting less food: Michael Pollan’s Food Rule #84: Take Back Control of Your Plate
Bravo, Mr. Pollan! This is a fitting rule for Thanksgiving time when our plates do seem to get completely out of control. So out of control, in fact, that last year approximately $277 million of turkey was thrown away over the Thanksgiving holiday alone! You can be sure that those pilgrims we are celebrating were truly grateful for the food before them, but are we? Or, has the abundance on our plates gotten a little out of hand?
As with his other rules, Pollan goes on to explain just what he means and why this rule is important:
Supersized portions have become the bane of both our health and the health of the planet. Most of us eat what’s put in front of us, ignoring signals of satiety; the only possible outcomes are either overeating or food waste. Gluttony is never pretty, but when a billion people in the world are hungry, it becomes unconscionable. So if you’re serving yourself, take no more than you know you can finish; err on the side of serving yourself too little, since you can always go back for seconds. When you’re at a restaurant that serves Brobdingnagian portions, tell your server you’d prefer a modest serving and the option of asking for more if it doesn’t satisfy. To let others manipulate you by overfilling your plate is a wasteful concession to marketing and the very opposite of conscious eating. We need a movement to make reasonable portions and “seconds” the norm in restaurants. That way, the restaurant can still offer the perceived value of “all you can eat” but without the inevitable waste.
Besides the fact that he uses the word Brobdingnagian (which, as a reminder if you haven’t read Gulliver’s Travels lately, means “of colossal size”), what I like about this rule is that it is empowering. We can take this situation into our own hands, people! Portion sizes have grown tremendously—the average cookie, in fact, has quadrupled in calories since the 1980s—but we don’t have to sit idly. We can be thankful for our food, and we can not take too much of it.
The amount of turkey wasted over Thanksgiving—about 204 million pounds—is enough to provide 46 four-ounce servings of turkey for every American household that is food insecure. Forty-six per household! Instead, it lands in our garbage can, as do all the resources it took to grow and nurture those birds: enough water to supply New York City for 100 days and the greenhouse gas equivalent to 800,000 car trips from San Francisco to New York.
This Thanksgiving, I invite you to truly be thankful for the feast before you and to take control of your plate and portions. Stop for a moment and reflect on everything it takes to bring that brilliant feast to your table—the grains that were grown to feed your turkey, the bog that nurtured your cranberries, the land that allowed your pumpkin to spread its big leaves all over, and the hands that worked tirelessly to grow our food. Then fill your plate with just what you can actually eat, and dig in!
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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