Design Concept Imagines an Illuminated Cemetery of the Future

The question of how to care for a body postmortem is a weighty one, perhaps even more people in cities, where prices are high and options are limited. As space shrinks, the problem grows, and one Columbia University team is working to develop solutions for New Yorkers, as well as the increasingly urban world at large.

DeathLab is a research and design group comprised of academics across disciplines (architects, scientists, theologians, etc.) who work together to develop practical solutions to the problem of where to put the dead in metropolitan areas. Traditional American methods like embalmment and burial or cremation are bad for the environment, and the former is problematic as cemetery space dwindles. So DeathLab is developing ideas like Constellation Park: a concept in which human remains are used to power lanterns that would hang from the Big Apple’s Manhattan Bridge.

If that sounds a little unbelievable, let’s backtrack. The idea at the heart of Constellation Park has to do with anaerobic digestion—a process in which microorganisms feed on a body in the absence of oxygen. As Columbia Magazine reports, this is helpful for pure disposal purposes, but also for its incredible byproduct: energy. Energy that can theoretically be used to generate light.

The biomass energy could power light pods that would be suspended from the bridge—a convenient way to incorporate the memorial sites into existing city infrastructure, with platforms and walkways to allow visitors. The remains will naturally decompose until they extinguish (or are retrieved by loved ones) and the pods would be replaced with new remains.

DeathLab director Karla Rothstein told Columbia Magazine: “People are so moved by the possibility that the corpse of a loved one could create light. We don’t talk about death; we don’t think about it. But to feel like your grief would be part of a larger community, and this person whose life is being honored remains part of this enduring constellation — it’s something people respond to really positively.”

The idea is still far from becoming a reality, and the collaborative is currently at work trying to create an organic material to test it. They are also simultaneously delving into other methods of bodily disposal and memorial, like “Sylvan Constellation,” which fuses a sort of traditional cemetery space with the organic energy-powered lights concept.

For more on DeathLab and Constellation Park, check out the project’s website.

[h/t Columbia Magazine]

'Lost Species' of Tiny, Rabbit-Sized Deer Photographed in Vietnam for the First Time in 30 Years

Global Wildlife Conservation
Global Wildlife Conservation

The silver-backed chevrotain, also called the Vietnamese mouse-deer, is elusive. It's so elusive that scientists had feared it was extinct after none had been photographed for decades. But as The Washington Post reports, the first images taken of the mammal in nearly 30 years prove that the species is still alive in the woods of Vietnam.

No larger than small dogs, chevrotains are the tiniest ungulates, or hoofed animals, on Earth. They have vampire-like fangs and skinny legs that support their bodies. Silver-backed chevrotains are characterized by the silver sheen of their tawny coat.

The tiny population native to Vietnam has been devastated by poachers in recent decades. That, and the animal's natural shyness, make it incredibly difficult to study. Before this most recent sighting, the last time scientists had recorded one was in 1990.

Global Wildlife Conservation, the Southern Institute of Ecology, and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research teamed up in hopes of documenting the lost species. Researchers interviewed residents and government forest rangers in the Vietnamese city of Nha Trang about the silver-backed chevrotain, looking for tips on where to find one. Residents said that while populations had been hit hard by hunting, the animals were still around.

Based on this local ecological knowledge, scientists set up three camera traps in the Vietnamese woods. In just five months, they captured 275 photographs of the little mouse-deer. They then installed 29 additional cameras and snapped 1881 new images in that same length of time.

“For so long this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination," Global Wildlife Conservation associate conservation scientist An Nguyen said in a statement. "Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again, and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it.”

Now that a silver-backed chevrotain population has been located, researchers plan to conduct the first-ever comprehensive survey of the species. Once the data is collected, it will be used to build a plan for the species' survival.

[h/t The Washington Post]

The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired

H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images

While you’re battling your cousins for the best napping spot after Thanksgiving dinner, feel free to use this as a diversion tactic: It’s a myth that eating turkey makes you tired.

It’s true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer tells WebMD that the best way to boost serotonin is to eat a small, all-carbohydrate snack a little while after you’ve eaten something that contains tryptophan, and the carbs will help ferry the tryptophan from your bloodstream to your brain.

But Thanksgiving isn’t exactly about eating small, well-timed snacks. It’s more about heaps of potatoes, mountains of stuffing, and generous globs of gravy—and that, along with alcohol, is more likely the reason you collapse into a spectacular food coma after your meal. Overeating (especially of foods high in fat) means your body has to work extra hard to digest everything. To get the job done, it redirects blood to the digestive system, leaving little energy for anything else. And since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it also slows down your brain and other organs.

In short, you can still hold turkey responsible for your Thanksgiving exhaustion, but you should make sure it knows it can share the blame with the homestyle mac and cheese, spiked apple cider, and second piece of pumpkin pie.

[h/t WebMD]

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