June 6, 2014

Bicycles: a free ride that you can ride freely.     Photo: Salim Virji/Flickr

World Naked Bike Ride Set for June 7

"Carfree" (not Carefree) is the motto

On June 7, cyclists in 70 cities in 25 countries will require only three pieces of gear: a bike, a white front headlight, and a red rear reflector. 

That's it, at least for those participating in the World Naked Bike Ride. Held since 2004, the event's official dress code is "as bare as you dare."

Event organizers in Portland, Oregon, hope to recruit more than 8,000 participants to raise awareness of cyclists and to protest against the oil-based economy. Other goals include showcasing the vulnerability of cyclists and pedestrians on the streets, encouraging a healthy body image through active lifestyles, and promoting self-sufficiency through renewable energy sources, according to the ride's website.

Those not participating in the event have expressed distaste for any sightings of disrobed cyclists. "It's bad enough to see it as adults," Portland resident Kathy Goertz told the Oregonian. "But kids? They could be scarred for life."

Although some may find the event unappealing, it's not illegal. According to the Portland Tribune, Portland Parks and Recreation signed off on a permit allowing the event, stating that the ride meets all safety and well-being criteria.

What the event lacks in clothes, it makes up for in rules. Participants must ride their bikes to the starting location, alcohol is prohibited, riders are encouraged to ride slowly, and no cameras are allowed.

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The Feds are asking Lance Armstrong and associates to testify this month in the whistle-blower case against him, but Armstrong's lawyers are crying foul.     Photo: Tom Raftery/Flickr

Pressure Mounts in Armstrong Whistle-Blower Suit

Rider asked to testify this month

The pressure is climbing on Lance Armstrong and four associates to testify in the federal whistle-blower case, initiated against Armstrong by former teammate Floyd Landis, according to a new story in USA Today. Armstrong is accused of committing fraud and violating anti-doping provisions in his contract while riding for the Postal Service team. The suit is asking for the $30 million in sponsorship money provided by USPS, while Armstrong would face triple damages under the law were he to lose the case in court.

Officials notified Armstrong and the others, including publicist Matt Higgins and former coach Chris Carmichael, that they must all be deposed in the case by the end of June. Armstrong is also scheduled to testify on June 12 in a separate suit—the case against him filed by SCA Promotions, which awarded Armstrong a cash bonus for his now-revoked Tour victories.

Armstrong's lawyers have pushed back against testifying this month in the whistler-blower suit, saying they are still awaiting discovery evidence that could impact testimony; they need the evidence to know how best to prepare. Lance has become more of a public figure recently, speaking to Outside about his past doping and other issues in the wake of his confession and losing his titles.

Read more of our ongoing coverage of the greatest scandal in cycling:

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These kids are on their way to better bones—but they'll benefit more if they stay just as active through adolescence.     Photo: John R. Hofmann Sr./Flickr

4th Graders Swap Chairs for Stability Balls

Bouncing Builds Better Bones

If we needed another argument for having an active childhood, here it is: A new long-term study says that active kids tend to grow up with stronger bones, even if they're more sedentary as teenagers. Dishearteningly, the same study reminds us that among teens, the inactive lifestyle is becoming endemic.

Researchers for the Iowa Bone Development Study recruited 530 kids to measure their physical activity intermittently over the course of 12 years. When the participants turned 17, they were scanned to measure the density, strength, and brittleness of their bones. The scans revealed that the most active participants had the strongest bones.

"Even once kids became less active, those who had been active had better bones," lead author Kathleen Janz told Reuters. That's not to let them off the hook—their bones could be even stronger if they'd move more. Most participants showed a concerning drop in physical activity as they got older, averaging about 24 minutes a day for 17-year-old girls and 36 minutes a day for 17-year-old boys. "Activity declines dramatically during adolescence, which is ironically a time when bone is most responsive to activity," Janz said.

No matter how common knowledge the argument for an active childhood seems, it's worth harping on—and maybe getting a little creative about. The latest attempt: Fourth-grade classrooms in (where else?) Portland, Oregon, have replaced chairs with exercise balls to help students focus and maybe even get in some core strength.

The students report that they enjoy swaying, moving from side to side, or bouncing whenever they find themselves getting bored with lessons. If they misbehave, it's back to normal chairs. "Balls are a privilege," a poster reminds the students.

The exercise balls have been an overwhelmingly positive change. "It makes learning just a little bit easier for them," teacher Liberty Looney says. "I think it's an opportunity to address not only behavior, but improved academic success and respond to the health needs of our society." Maybe the idea will catch on elsewhere. Denise Schilling, an associate professor at the Western University of Health Sciences who has done the first research on exercise balls in the classroom, seems to think so. "The balls are the way of the future," she told the Oregonian. If it keeps kids moving, we'll support it.

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You can keep your cool while tempting a tan if you follow these controversial guidelines.     Photo: Creatas/ThinkStock

Melanoma Hotbed Dishes Bold Sun-Exposure Rules

Australians say: Get more natural rays

From the time American youth step onto their first beach, fastidious parents dunk them into vats of sunscreen and swaddle them in ultraviolet-protective sun shirts and hats. This has also been the modus operandi of Australians, famous among dermatologists for having the world's highest incidence of melanoma, since the country launched its first sun protection campaign in 1981

However, there's a new dawn for the ray-catching population south of the equator. In light of new research, Australian dermatologists are not only challenging the cornerstones of skin protection, but also uncovering interesting dialectics between American and Australian perspectives on race.

Although recent press releases muddle the message, Nautilus Magazine is reporting that Cancer Council Australia has begun advising the country's sunbathers—particularly those in low-light areas such as Sydney and Melbourne—to toss their Ombrelle and fill prescriptions for natural sunshine. Instead of insulating ourselves from light, Australian dermatologists are encouraging us to embrace it—intelligently, of course. Newer sun exposure guidelines from Victoria-based SunSmart adapt to the seasons and, in a sociologically bold move, take skin color and race into account. 

"We're very active telling people when not to use protection" in winter, said Craig Sinclair, head of Cancer Council Victoria, in an interview with Nautilus. "This is certainly unusual compared to the U.S."

The new guidelines follow a host of studies reporting that regular sun exposure lowers risk of melanoma and protects against burning, and that sunburns, not tans, spur skin cancers.

The human body requires vitamin D, deliverable via UV in sunrays, to function. Melanin, the amino acid–derived skin pigment that defends against ultraviolet solar radiation, also impedes natural production of vitamin D, leaching calcium from the body and increasing risk of bone fractures, osteoporosis, and diseases like rickets. 

The amount of melanin in our bodies correlates with our complexions, as determined by the melanocortin 1 receptor gene (MC1R). MC1R dictates which melanin pigment our bodies produce; brunette and raven-haired folk who tan easily pump out eumelanin, while those light of skin and hair (especially redheads) produce pheomelanin. Eumelanin's sun protection factor (SPF) is 10 times stronger than pheomelanin, as pheomelanin allows more UV to enter the skin to create vitamin D. See where this is going?

Recent studies have shown that human evolution mirrored sun exposure. In places like Scandinavia where sunlight was hard to come by, the biggest worry was getting enough vitamin UV, not sunburn. Under the hot sun of Sub-Saharan Africa, however, getting enough light was never an issue—keeping it out was. In the Mediterranean, people tan quickly and lighten as the seasons change, adapting to different availabilities of light.

While U.S. dermatologists prescribe intensive UV-protection across the board, Australian dermatologists adapt their advice to patients' melanin levels, which inevitably means race.   

"Americans have a serious problem with skin color. When you think of the history of slavery in the United States, that is the problem," said Nina Jablonski, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, who analyzed global skin pigments as functions of sunlight availability. "So many doctors feel extremely uncomfortable talking about it. What they see in skin color is a social barrier, not a physical phenomenon."

Australians, on the other hand, see themselves as pragmatic rather than politically incorrect.

"The pragmatism leads us away from the one size fits all," says Australian dermatologist Stephen Shumack. 

Australia has hit the ground running with its guidelines, producing the SunSmart app, which measures UV levels and vitamin D production and has attracted more than 100,000 downloads. Hopefully, this will help the country chip away the alarming fact that 70 percent of Australians get melanoma within their lifetimes.

If you're an American looking to rebel against the dermatological community, you're in luck: After discovering that 80 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient, Californian Rob Williams got the bright idea to create DMinder, the American equivalent of SunSmart's app.

More from Outside About the Benefits of Sunlight:

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Good thing there are gulls to keep Nick Hancock company on Rockall—because nobody wants to be lonely.     Photo: By Anilocra at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

Well THIS Man Is An Island

Scott plans 60-day stay on deserted rock

Nick Hancock is ready to rock. The Scottish adventurer and former Officer Training Corps cadet is headed to the Rockall islet, the most isolated rock in British waters, located 260 miles west of Scotland's Western Isles. He hopes to stay there—alone—for 60 days and set a new record for Rockall occupation. Three Greenpeace campaigners hold the current 42-day record; Tom McClean set the solo occupation record in 1985 with a 40-day stay.

According to the Guardian, Hancock was forced to abandon his first attempt last June when heavy seas prevented his attempts to land on the rock, a sharp, steep-sided remnant of an ancient volcano submerged in the North Atlantic.

Although Hancock made his intentions clear for a second endeavor, his exact attempt date was unsure due to weather, until he tweeted, "Going to #Rockall soon! Feeling strong, confident & ready."

Hancock will spend his 60 days on Hall's Ledge. A mere 11 feet by 4 feet, it's the only area of Rockall that can be occupied. He plans on using Skype to communicate with his wife, Pamela, and their two-year-old son, Freddie, the Scotsman reported. His survival pod, called the RockPod, created from an eight-foot yellow water tank, stores dehydrated army rations and fresh water, and uses a small wind turbine and solar panels to charge his satellite communications. To complete the initial climb up the face of the rock and haul the RockPod, Hancock says he has been practicing winching and strength training.

Hancock hopes to raise 10,000 pounds, nearly $17,000, for the Help for Heroes charity.

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WVC Reporter's browser view of geotagged roadkill.     Photo: Olson et al./PLOS ONE

New App Geotags Roadkill

Nail a deer? Get our your phone!

Thanks to a new app from WVC Reporter, you'll never have to be grossed out by roadkill again. 

The smartphone-based system for citizen scientists was referenced by a report in PLOS ONE this week and builds off EpiCollect's crowdsourced roadkill trackers, RoadkillGarneau and WildlifeBlitzGarneau.

In WVC Reporter, citizen scientists geotagged the dead animals and reduced location error by 99 percent (in its first year of use) compared to mobile Web applications like RoadkillGarneau, in which users reported the highway name and mile marker. WVC Reporter has aggregated 6,822 carcasses from its mobile users thus far, according to the report, and mapped the data entries on its site.

Look at the pretty pattern of wildlife-vehicle collisions now so you don't have to gawk at roadkill while you're driving. Citizen scientists note: Please use good judgment when stopping at roadside to take pictures and collect data.

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