A magazine for people who are curious about the world they live in and how it works
S PA r k FOCUS
On The Reality Of Alzheimerâ€™s The Long Goodbye
TOP GADGETS LEARN HOW
Music Feeds Your Brain
GOODBYE As a geriatric physician in San Antonio, I’ve spent the past thirty years battling against the gradual decline of my Alzheimer’s patients. Now the disease is stealing my own father.
Today, the tattoo is undergoing a renaissance such that only the deeply unfashionable remain unmarked.
Get the inside scoop from the makers of Black Ops 2.
Heeding the Call
McDonald’s at a Glance “In business for over 65 year, see how much has changed over the years.”
The Rise of Instagram Instagram users are on the rise, the number of posts per day are on the rise, but why?
Develop 10 The Boombox, a Blast from the Past Where it went and what is replacing it today
Top 10 Gadgets This top 10 list changed the world more than any other!
iPad Mini to the Test Watch as we put this mini device to the test and see how it rate over all.
Diagnose 16 Sleep is the Enemy We cought up with sleep expert Dr. Smith who shared with us some of his most recent findings
19 Can You Bottle Energy The surprising cure is free says Dr. Lee, its love.
22 Food to Boost Test Scores What is the magic food that will boost your test scores by 20%?
Discover 26 Music, itâ€™s Brain Food Science proves that music does more for us than just give us something to dance to, it also feeds our brain.
28 Do You Lie 10 Times a Day The shocking discovery found after a decade long study
31 Will the Sun Swallow Us
Science has many theories about how the earth began but only one about how it will end.
A BLAST FROM THE PAST
You hear stories of back in the day, like on the beach, and they’re all listening to their own boomboxes, and they all tune them in together, and get that same song going.” BY Rob Lee
f you were listening to music in the ‘80s, says Serena Altschul, you might have been hearing it out of a boombox, a very loud boombox - maybe too loud! Big stereo speakers, a tape deck (or two), and lots of heavy D batteries. Boomboxes were first introduced in the late 1970s, so instead of listening at home, you could take the beat to the street.“It meant that you were like a walking jukebox, if you will,” says artist and hip hop pioneer Fab5Freddy. “I grew up in the Bed Stuy section of Brooklyn, so it was a cool, typical, fun thing. Everybody would gather around it to hear that cool music.” Fab5Freddy remembers the sounds of the city, and the importance of bass to the old but not forgotten boombox: “Well, the bass was important to the boom,” he explained. “I mean, that’s where the boom comes from. Because, you know, the popular music as we came from disco into, you know, funk, of course, disco and then hip hop, that bass was important, and getting a good, clean, boom boom bass meant a lot.”
Remembering In the early ‘80s, hip hop was still in its infancy. It wasn’t on MTV, and you could hardly hear it on the radio. But through the boombox you could listen to the songs often dealing with urban decay and racial injustice - songs like “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five:
“The bill collectors they ring my phone, And scare my wife when I’m not home, Got a bum education, double-digit inflation, I can’t take the train to the job, there’s a strike at the station” “Those stories weren’t being written, and they certainly weren’t being published in poetry or mainstream publications,” said photographer Lyle Owerko. “So what better way than to communicate a message through sound, which has been done, you know, through the history of music?
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“The boombox as an image represents community,” he said. “It represents defiance. It represents an outgoing nature. It represents I need to be seen, paid attention to, and defined.” Owerko has his own collection of boomboxes. Their images and stories are documented in his new book, “The Boombox Project.” “You hear stories of back in the day, like on the beach, or people sitting on the subway, going to the beach, and they’re all listening to their own boomboxes, and they all tune them in together, and get that same song going,” Owerko said, “so that it’s like a whole democracy of sound.” Of course, not everyone wanted to join this sonic community ... The boombox had its detractors, a sentiment popularized in the 1986 film “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” when Spock used the Vulcan grip to paralyze a boombox-wielding punk. But it was too late - the boombox was everywhere. And it wasn’t just an inner-city thing, says Owerko.
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6 hours SPArk
IS THE ENEMY
We cought up with sleep expert Dr. Smith who shared with us some of his recent findings about sleep habits. BY Julie Miller
e all know that we don’t get enough sleep. But how much sleep do we really need? Until about 15 years ago, one common theory was that if you slept at least four or five hours a night, your cognitive performance remained intact; your body simply adapted to less sleep. But that idea was based on studies in which researchers sent sleepy subjects home during the day — where they may have sneaked in naps and downed coffee. Enter David Dinges, the head of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital at University of Pennsylvania, who has the distinction of depriving more people of sleep than perhaps anyone in the world. In what was the longest sleep-restriction study of its kind, Dinges and his lead author, Hans Van Dongen, assigned dozens of subjects to three different groups for their 2003 study: some slept four hours, others six hours and others, for the lucky control group, eight hours — for two weeks in the lab.
pressing the space bar as soon as they saw a flash of numbers at random intervals. Even a half-second response delay suggests a lapse into sleepiness, known as a microsleep. The P.V.T. is tedious but simple if you’ve been sleeping well. It measures the sustained attention that is vital for pilots, truck drivers, astronauts. Attention is also key for focusing during long meetings; for reading a paragraph just once, instead of five times; for driving a car. It takes the equivalent of only a twosecond lapse for a driver to veer into oncoming traffic.
Not surprisingly, those who had eight hours of sleep hardly had any attention lapses and no cognitive declines over the 14 days of the study. What was interesting was that those in the fourand six-hour groups had P.V.T. results Sleep Habits that declined steadily with almost each Every two hours during the day, the passing day. Though the four-hour subresearchers tested the subjects’ ability jects performed far worse, the six-hour to sustain attention with what’s known group also consistently fell off-task. By as the psychomotor vigilance task, or the sixth day, 25 percent of the six-hour P.V.T., considered a gold standard of group was falling asleep at the comsleepiness measures. During the P.V.T., puter. And at the end of the study, they the men and women sat in front of were lapsing fives times as much as they computer screens for 10-minute periods, did the first day.
Hours Spent Sleeping by American Adults 3-4 4-5 5-6 6-7 7-9
9% 17% 16%
“The most alluring sleep distraction is the 24-hour accessibility of the Internet.” SPArk
IT’S BRAIN FOOD
Science proves that music does more for us than just give us something to dance to. It feeds the brain in many ways like nothing else can. BY EMMA RAY
years. It still is a very broad subject and scientists don’t yet fully understand all the implications of music on the brain. Although there is still not yet a full understanding of music’s effect on the brain, modern and alternative treatments have began to embrace music’s effects by making use of music therapy to treat depression, ADD, seizures, premature infancy and also really bad insomnia.
Moods usic can help with academic success. Poor grades do not automatically ref lect poor intelligence; they are often an outcome of lack of interest and lack of motivation in studying time. Studies have shown that music triggers notable improvements in a student’s academic skills when they listen to certain types of music while they are studying. The rhythm of music has also been shown in studies to aid in the studying of one of the most intimidating subjects for many students: math. Music stimulates the areas of the brain that are responsible for your thinking, planning, and analyzing, thereby improving your organizational skills and making you more capable of handling challenging math problems.
Creativity Understanding how music affects the brain has been a topic of scientific research for
Emotional problems and other negative feelings such as anxiety, worrying, and depression create an uncomfortable and sometimes chaotic mood in the brain, thereby affecting its functioning. This is reflected in weaker reasoning ability and increased difficulty in the performance of tasks as a result of a reduction in the levels of serotonin. Around 50 million brain cells are affected by serotonin levels. Music can cause an increase in serotonin levels thereby creating positive effects on the brain cells that control memory power, learning, mood, sleep functions, body temperature regulation mechanisms, sexual desires, and many
Music helps improve your memory. Research suggests that the silence in between two musical notes can trigger the neurons and brain cells which are required for sharp memory. Music from flute, sarod, and santoor, are ideal for the improvement of any memory and concentration. This brings about
Best Selling Albums of 2012 Some Nights by Fun Babel by Mumford & Sons Red by Taylor Swift 21 by Adele SPArk
As a geriatric physician in San Antonio, I’ve spent the past thirty years battling against the gradual decline of my Alzheimer’s patients. Now the disease is stealing my own father. BY JERALD WINAKUR
PHOTOS BY EMILY THORNTON
ebruary 24, 2012, is my parents’ sixty fifth wedding anniversary. My family plans a brunch for them in their home. We are keenly aware that this may be the last anniversary my parents will celebrate together. At 87 years old, he is now a prisoner of his mind. It won’t be an elaborate party, just a bittersweet one. Seven years earlier, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and he has gone steadily downhill. At 87 years old, he is now a prisoner of his mind. His agitation and paranoia arise from distorted memories, nightmares he can no longer separate from reality. A few days before the brunch, my mother calls me in a panic. My dad is bellicose and paranoid, accusing. Summoning Yiddish profanities he has not uttered in 75 years, he curses at Yolanda, the caregiver who holds everything together in my parents’ household. He will not be 57
bathed or shaved. He will not eat, refuses his medications. He is raving. “Dad,” I say when I visit their house that afternoon, “what is it? What’s wrong?” “I want to go home. Please, take me home!” “But, Dad, you are home.” “I don’t know where I am. Please, Jerry-boy, take me home. You know the way, show me the way home. . .” “I don’t know where else to take you, Dad. You’ve lived here for twenty-nine years.” “You go to hell! You’re in with them!” There is no walking away now. He is an abandoned child. He searches for his boy-
hood home on Boarman Avenue, in Baltimore, or perhaps our first family home there, on Forest Park Avenue. He hears voices but can’t decode what is being said, and his mind assumes the worst: My mother is insulting him, planning to run off; his sons are belittling him, his mother scolding him, his older brothers and sisters teasing him. He is lost, with no father of his own to turn to. I see that he has wet himself; a dark ring marks his place on the couch.
My Profession As a geriatric physician in San Antonio for the past thirty years, I have been through this before. I have been cursed, spit on, bitten, and punched by demented old folks over the decades. A poor woman threw a shoe at me when I stepped inside her hospital room. The day before, she thought I was the devil. As a doctor, I know what to do; as a son, I am uncertain. So I assume my doctor role, retreating into the armor of my starched white coat. I walk to the kitchen and check his daily pill slots to make sure he’s been getting his regular medications. Sometimes
5 Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s Drink Vegetable Juices A study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Medicine indicates that people who drink three or more servings of fruit and vegetable juices per week have a 76 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to people who drink less than one serving per week.
Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.
Keep A Healthy Body Weight According to research that was presented at the 58th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in April of 2006, people who are overweight when they are in their 40s have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life than those who are not overweight when they are in their 40s.
Engage Your Brain The cells that make up your brain are similar to those that make up your muscles; they need to be exercised to stay healthy and strong. If your daily work doesn’t require you Above:
to solve problems and be creative, consider
My dad, my brother & I in 1959
adopting hobbies that do. Not only will you decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, you’re bound to feel more alive!
My dad & I in 2012
Meditate Andrew Newberg of the University o Pennsylvania School of Medicine says meditating for 12 minutes a day for two months improves blood flow and thinking in seniors with memory problems, according to Carper.
Information from the University of California SPArk
Dad looking at pictures from his past.
my mother, unable to see due to macular degeneration, inadvertently leaves pills in the plastic containers I fill every couple weeks.
The Problem The pills are often as much a part of the problem as the cure. My father takes eight medications a day; my mother, who is 82, fourteen. They are both on vitamins and minerals, blood pressure medications, diuretics, and cholesterol-lowering drugs. My father also takes two pills for his heart. My mother takes drugs for her diabetes, a thyroid disorder, osteoporosis, and depression. This is not unusual for folks their age. I spend my doctoring days prescribing medications for my patients, reshuffling the ones they’re on—a tiny dose change here, a retiming of administration there. By now I have written or refilled hundreds of thou59
sands of prescriptions, but my constant goal is to cut back on medications, stop them altogether if I can: Less is usually more. Every geriatrician knows this. Looking through my father’s pills, I recall a patient of mine, Lilly, a woman who first came to see me carrying a brown paper shopping bag crammed with pill bottles—at least forty different drugs prescribed by a dozen physicians. “This one’s for the high blood,” she had said, “and this one’s for the sweet blood, and this one’s for the low blood. These three are for my bad knees, and this one’s ’cause I’m sad a lot, and this one’s ’cause I don’t sleep too good, and this one’s ’cause I’m tired all the time. I can hardly keep ’em straight, but I got a big list at home tacked to the wall, over the phone in my kitchen. Last month the company cut off the service when I couldn’t pay the bill. All these medicines and
Projected Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S., in millions
30 40 Year
rate as younger, healthier patients. The main workhorses of drug excretion—the liver and kidneys—decline in function with age, as do all our organ systems. The elderly, like my parents, are often on multiple drugs (including over-the-counter preparations the doctor might not even know about), and the incidences of unforeseen interactions begin to mount. We know so little about these interactions. Indeed, the pharmaceutical companies are infamous in geriatric circles for not including our elderly patients in drug trials. These days, between the Food and Drug Administration and Big Pharma, I hang suspended in a netherworld of prescribing angst. It is one thing, I always make sure to tell my patients, to judge a drug’s benefits and risks after it has been given to a few thousand patients in clinical trials; it’s
quite another after it has been prescribed to hundreds of thousands upon its general release. In the parlance of the technology and pharmaceutical industries, doctors like me who are cautious, who do not immediately jump on the company bandwagon every time it trumpets its “latest and greatest” product, are known as “slow adopters.”
Whant to do Next Now these industries have figured out a way to circumvent my judgment should I fail to join the chorus of cheerleaders for their newest breakthrough. On television, in magazines, they promise an end to arthritis pain, and good night’s sleep. a cure for incontinence, a firm erection. With patients who worry that I may have blocked their path to the Fountain of Youth when I decline their drug requests. Some even change doctors.
still I feel so bad. That’s why I come to you now. That and all these other troubles.” She had handed me a list of symptoms, pencilscrawled on a ragged piece of paper.
Time is Running Out I spent two hours with Lilly, hearing one story loop into another: bad marriages, kids in jail, ER visits, surgeries, strange diagnoses mostly self-made. I knew what was happening to Lilly, what happens to many people like her in a medical encounter. The physician begins to drown in a sea of conflicting information, feels powerless to alter the circumstances of this person’s life. A wave of helplessness washes over doctor and patient both, and he reaches for his prescription pad. “Here, try this,” he says. “I think it will help.” Then he steps into the hall, picks up the next chart, and moves on, hoping the drug he has prescribed helps but doubtful it will. I could not change the circumstances of Lilly’s life, couldn’t make up for her poverty or lack of education or the poor choices she had made. But she improved significantly when, after some lab work and many more hours of listening, I was eventually able to whittle her medication list down to three. Prescribing for the elderly is complicated. They don’t metabolize drugs at the same
My parents engagement picture 1947 Top right:
My Parents on their 45th Anniversary Bottom right:
At my parents 65th wedding Anniversary party
Instagram THE “RISE” OF
Todayâ€™s tech is often blamed for producing a generation of people who stare at screens. But sometimes it opens up a new window on the world. This is exactly what Instagram has done. The number of users, the number of posts and the positive impact it has is all on the rise. BY RUBEN SAVAGE
hen the mobile app Instagram emerged just over a year ago, I didn’t expect it to make a splash. Photo sharing is old hat (ask Flickr and Facebook), and social-media tools .. eh, they come and go. But Instagram didn’t go: It exploded, amassing 12 million users who’ve posted 250 million pictures. Not bad for an app built by six people.
What’s the allure? It’s partly that Instagram made mobile photo sharing drop-dead easy. Plus, photos are the global lingua franca, so the app spread worldwide quickly. But I think the main answer lies elsewhere. The real allure of Instagram was its photo “filters”—and the subsequent rise of filter culture. Filters help us see the world in a new way. When Instagram launched, it offered 12 settings to augment users’ photos in ways that produced lovely and often surprising results. You’d take a picture, put on the Lomo-fi filter, and boom—the popping colors made an otherwise drab party picture emotionally vibrant. Or the Hefe filter—my personal favorite—which boosts contrast while reducing saturation, uncovering subtle details I don’t notice with my naked eye.
Seeing the world differently As I used the app more and more, something 83
surprising happened: I became increasingly observant of the world around me. Walking to the subway the other day, I spotted a backhoe parked on a corner and got curious—what could I do with that? Presto: Hefe helped me turn it into the dirty claw of a weary dragon. Later that day, a filtered snap of my living-room floor revealed how it secretly looks like the wood on a red country barn. In old analog cameras, many such filter “effects” were a chemical byproduct of the film, so photographers became expert at understanding the unique powers of each. Fujifilm’s Velvia film, with its high saturation and strong contrast, attracts photographers looking to capture the vibrancy of nature, Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom notes. But casual photographers rarely developed this type of eye, because they just wanted to point and shoot. What Instagram is doing— along with the myriad other photo apps that have recently emerged—is giving newbies a way to develop deeper visual literacy. “All Instagram did was take the creative tools that the pros have been using and put
them in the hands of the masses,” Systrom tells me. The movement is growing rapidly, according to Lisa Bettany, codesigner of Camera+, a top-selling app for the iPhone. Six months ago, 60 percent of the photos taken with Camera+ were filtered. Today, it has risen to 70 percent. Does this make people better photographers? Bettany thinks so: She gets letters from people saying the filters encouraged them to take their pictures more seriously and to be more daring. “There’s all this food photography now,” she says. “You’re in a restaurant and you see people crouching down—they’re going like, ‘Oh, I need to get this angle right!’”
Seeing through filters Critics sniff that filters are mere retro-chic nostalgia. That’s partly true, but it misses the creative urge here—and how filters affect what gets photographed. Scroll randomly through Instagram feeds and you’ll see the expected cat pictures and look-at-me headshots. But there are also tons of still
“All Instagram did was take the creative tools that the pros have been using and put them in the hands of the masses,” Systrom
INSTAGRAM IN NUMBERS
domly through Instagram feeds and you’ll see the expected cat pictures and look-at-me headshots. But there are also tons of still lifes and landscapes, filtered into poetry: A vacant pair of blood-red subway seats that seem weirdly alarming, the corroded metal clock on an old oven as a meditation on time. When I was a kid in the ’70s, you only got that sort of composition in National Geographic. Now it’s omnipresent. In old analog cameras, many such filter “effects” were a chemical byproduct of the film, so photographers became expert at understanding the unique powers of each. Fujifilm’s Velvia film, with its high saturation and strong contrast, attracts photographers looking to capture the vibrancy of nature, Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom detailed notes.
Rising to New Heights But casual photographers rarely developed this type of eye, because they just wanted to point and shoot. What Instagram is doing— along with the myriad other photo apps that have recently emerged—is giving newbies a way to develop deeper visual literacy. “All Instagram did was take the creative tools that the pros have been using and put them in the hands of the masses,” Systrom tells me. The movement is growing rapidly, according to Lisa Bettany, codesigner of Camera+, a top-selling app for the iPhone. Six months ago, 60 percent of the photos taken with Camera+ were filtered. . Does this make people better photographers? Bettany thinks so: She gets letters from people saying the filters encouraged them to take their pictures more seriously and to be more daring. “There’s all this food photography now,” she says. “You’re in a restaurant and you see people crouching down—they’re going like, ‘Oh, I need to get this angle right!’” Scroll randomly through Instagram feeds and you’ll see the expected cat pictures and look-at-me headshots. But there are also tons of still lifes and landscapes too. SPArk