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Friday Finds: Backpacking Brain Boost

Taking a hike may boost your brainpower

Taking a hike may boost your brainpower
Spending time outside doesn’t just make you happier and calm your frazzled nerves, reports the Wall Street Journal. It can also improve creativity. According to a yet-to-be-published paper by University of Kansas researchers, a group of hikers that spent four days in the woods outperformed another set of hikers that had yet to hit the trails on a standard creativity test. This wasn’t just a meager boost in creativity, though. The test results showed a nearly 50 percent increase in performance from the hikers who were already on the trails. In addition to boosting creativity, previous studies have shown time spent in nature (or even having a window that looks out into a grassy area) can improve everything from short-term memory to how you handle life’s major challenges.

 Fukushima fish swim their way to California waters
U.S. scientists recently announced that Bluefin tuna contaminated with low levels of radiation from last year’s Fukushima meltdown were found along the California coast five months after the disaster, reports Mother Jones. The finding comes on the heels of Japan’s own announcement that it’s preparing to restart one of the nation’s nuclear plants, which were idled after the Fukushima meltdown. Despite the stigma that radioactive fish will no doubt entail, the scientists maintain that radiation levels found in the fish is lower than what occurs naturally in the environment and therefore doesn’t pose a risk to human health. Unfortunately, these days radiation isn’t the only contaminant that people have to worry about when ordering a tuna fish sandwich. Many fish, including Bluefin tuna, also contain mercury, a toxic chemical linked to impaired neurological development and having other harmful effects. But unlike nuclear radiation pollution, which tends to happen only when there’s a meltdown, mercury is willingly created every day by industrial sources like coal-fired power plants. Find out how we're shutting them down and cleaning them up.

Report finds big corporations are two-faced on climate change views
Some of the nation’s top companies are duplicitous in their climate change views, reports the LA Times. A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that though companies like ConocoPhillips and Caterpillar have touted their commitment to sustainability in the public eye, behind closed doors they often support measures and organizations that deny climate science and fight to stop greenhouse gas reductions.The report also accuses organizations like the American Petroleum Institute of fabricating larger grassroots followings for their work, a tactic that was also recently employed by a pro-coal group that paid people to attend a public meeting and wear t-shirts in support of coal. Though the UCS report certainly uncovered many bad actors, it was also quick to point out that some companies, like Nike, have chosen to leave certain industry groups like the Chamber of Commerce because of their anti-climate change stance.

FDA tells corn syrup lobby to call a spade a spade
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) won’t be allowed to rebrand itself as “corn sugar”, no matter how much bad press it’s received lately, reports Grist. This week, the FDA came to that conclusion after determining that HFCS, which is an “aqueous solution sweetener derived from corn after enzymatic hydrolysis of cornstarch, followed by enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose,” isn’t even close to being the same thing as a sugar derived from corn, so it shouldn’t be labeled as such. The FDA’s decision is a big win for the sugar industry, which worried about the competition that “corn sugar” might bring, as well as for health officials who worried that a rebrand of corn syrup into corn sugar might actually trick people into believing the product is healthy for them.