Calorie restriction can make you healthier… but there are a few things to consider first

Image: Calorie restriction can make you healthier… but there are a few things to consider first

(Natural News)
Intermittent fasting and other restrictive diets are all the rage these days — and new research has shown calorie restriction can provide tremendous health benefits. The most comprehensive study of calorie restriction to date was just published in Cell Metabolism, and its findings show that a decreased food intake has a profound effect on human health. But, as sources note, this finding is more about gaining a deeper understanding of human biology and metabolism than peddling diet advice. At its most basic level, metabolism is what gives us life. While most people use the term “metabolism” to describe the rate at which they burn energy, the word’s meaning is far greater than just that. Indeed, metabolism is defined as “all chemical reactions involved in maintaining the living state of the cells and the organism.”

Most people think a fast metabolism is a “healthy” metabolism, but the new research from Comprehensive Assessment of the Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) research network at Duke University has shown that a slower metabolism may actually be the secret to long-term health.

Calorie restriction, metabolism and long-term health

Calorie restriction (CR) is the term scientists use in experiments featuring deliberately reduced calorie intake. The scientists working on CALERIE have conducted multiple studies as CALERIE is a multi-phase research project. In the latest study, CALERIE scientists studied 53 young, healthy participants at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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To conduct their research, the team used metabolic chambers to gather data on the participants’ oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide exhalation. Urine samples were also collected, so the scientists could get a full picture of how much energy the subjects were using, and where that energy was coming from (whether it be carbohydrates, fat or protein). Thirty-four people were placed on a (roughly) 15-percent CR diet, while the remaining 19 individuals were placed into the control group.

What they found was shocking: Over the course of two years, participants on the CR diet “lost about 19 pounds, experienced metabolic adaptation (meaning their bodies used less energy and started using energy more efficiently), produced fewer reactive oxygen species, and generally had improved biomarkers associated with aging.”

CALERIE scientists have posited that their findings could be connected to two possible theories of aging: The “rate of living” theory, as well as the “oxidative damage” theory. Sources explain that together, these two theories “roughly assert that a faster metabolism produces more reactive oxygen species, which in turn causes more cellular damage — and that causes aging.”

Eating less for better health?

While a 15-percent calorie deficit would generally be considered unsustainable for the long haul, this study is sure to inspire more research. This study, after all, was not designed to create the next big fad diet. However, past research has shown that intermittent fasting and modest calorie reduction can have long-term health benefits.

Experts caution that the recent CALERIE study should be taken with a grain of salt, due to the severity of calorie restriction. But, it’s not the first study to suggest that eating a bit less — or simply eating less often — can hold the promise of better overall health.

A recently published study found that calorie restriction could help promote better learning, for example. But perhaps most impressive are the well-documented benefits of intermittent fasting (IF). IF is not really a diet so much as an eating pattern; it relies on fasting for a set interval of time either daily or a few days a week. Research has shown that IF, even without calorie restriction, can provide a myriad of health benefits, and could be a viable approach for fighting obesity, metabolic disorders and other health issues.

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5 things you should always prioritize in life

Think of them as personal investments that guarantee fabulous returns over time.

Life is full of small decisions, like what you’re going to eat for dinner, whether or not you go the gym later, and what time you go to sleep. On their own, these decisions seem minor, but added over time, they amount to a lifestyle that can make or break you.

In a thought-provoking article for The Mission, writer Srinivas Rao outlines what he considers to be 5 essential investments every person should make in themselves. When these five things are prioritized, it affects every aspect of your life for the better, resulting in greater happiness, health, work performance, and more.

1. Physical Health

This is the first thing most people think of, but it encompasses far more than just going to the gym on a regular basis. Getting enough quality sleep and eating well are just as important. If you hate working out, Rao recommends developing an athletic hobby, like surfing, snowboarding, yoga, or gardening. Make exercise less of a chore and you’ll grow to like it more. (I didn’t set foot inside a gym until I was 25, and it became a highly unexpected addiction.)

2. Mental Health

Your mental state has an impact on everything around, from your job to your relationships to creative output to physical wellbeing. Surround yourself with positive influences (your primary relationship has a huge impact on everything you do), foster a habit of gratitude, get a therapist, practice meditation, establish a productive routine. I’d add spend time outside. Being outside has an incredible uplifting effect on one’s mood and creative performance. Read: 5 ways nature boosts happiness, according to science

3. Education

Education should not stop with a diploma or degree; it’s an ongoing, lifelong process. Thanks to the Internet, there’s a world of valuable information at your fingertips, if you have the determination to access and absorb it. Rao thinks books, courses, and podcasts are all valuable investments, as long as you actually do them. Read: How to maximize the number of books you read

4. Professional Development

There will come a point where you cannot get any better doing something on your own. Know when to hire a trainer, a coach, a mentor; form a Mastermind group; or seek professional guidance in some other way. This may require a significant financial outlay, but you may very well learn more in a 2-day workshop than you’d teach yourself in a year.

5. Your Environment

The state of your surroundings affects your mental health and productivity. Staying tidy, organized, and well-dressed goes a long way toward fuelling inspiration. Choose a place to live that is conducive to becoming your best self. Perhaps that means moving downtown so you don’t have to commute, or choosing a place that allows you to bike to work, or downsizing to enjoy greater financial freedom.

I liked this list because, as an adult, there is a tendency to feel like the ‘personal formation’ period of my life is somehow over. I know that’s not true, but now that I have kids running around the house, they have become the next focal point, the ones I need to raise to maturity; but that shouldn’t mean that my own development stagnates in the meantime. Every adult can benefit from actively pursuing learning, wellbeing, and physical prowess, regardless of their age. Read Rao’s full article here.

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This is Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things

By Amanda Froelich

A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” — George Carlin

The quote above does an excellent job portraying the ironic lifestyle most Americans have adopted. In order to be “happy,” most people work upwards of 50 hours a week. The money they earn pays for expensive cars, lavish houses, and dazzling jewelry. But are they happy with more and more possessions? According to a 20-year study, the answer is “no.”

The research was led by Dr. Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University. Along with his team, Gilovich concluded that “things” don’t make people happy. Rather, experiences do. The professor or psychology says the problem with happiness is that it fades quickly. There are three critical reasons for this:

1) We grow accustomed to new possessions

What was once shiny, new and “must-have” is now the norm.

2) We will always compare to the Joneses

You might live 20 miles away from civilization. But when you venture back into town and see all of the new, extraordinary tech on the market, comparisons will be made. It’s comparison that prompts people to buy more things.

3) We keeping raising expectations

Chances are, the life you are living now was once the lifestyle you dreamt about when younger. But, now that you have secured comfort, a decent amount of luxury, and comparative freedom, you want more. As you buy new items, you form new expectations. This shapes your future shaping habits.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” said Gilovich. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

The world is rapidly changing. People are waking up to the reality that they are more than their “ego” or identity. Furthermore, free-thinkers are beginning to ask “why?” when told how to think, behave, and act in order to fit into society. The truth is, our world is incredibly flawed. And, by departing from nature, mankind is destroying itself and the planet. As people learn simple life lessons, such as experiences (not things) provide happiness, Earth will undoubtedly become a very different place.

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20 things I love to put on toast

It’s true that avocado toast may be perfection, but variety is the spice of life.

Having grown up in southern California, we were eating avocado toast long before it became Avocado Toast – and even though I have been eating it for most of my life, I never get tired of it. That said, toast is really one of the world’s gifts to living, so why stop with avocado?

Toast is a blank canvas begging for adornment with delicious things. Topped toast delivers the comfort of a sandwich, with half the bread; the delight of crostini but more substantial; the variety of tea sandwiches but with an edge.

I started thinking about all the toasts I have made and loved, and really there are just endless combinations – much of it predicated by what’s in season or what needs to be used up before going south, as they say. Following are just some of my go-to toast toppers. (Can you tell that my family and I really like toast?)


Because plain avocado toast is my toast true love. We get a beautiful whole grain sourdough rye that plays perfectly with the nutty, creamy avocado. Topped with flake sea salt and black pepper. Simple and perfect.

Avocado, blood orange, slivered fresh jalapeno

There are a million things to put on top of avocado toast – after fresh summer tomatoes, this combination is my favorite. Creamy, sweet, bright, and spicy.

Tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt

When gorgeous local tomatoes are at their peak, there are few things better than slapping slices on toast; if there is a nice fruit olive oil, sea salt and even a basil leaf or two, all the better.

Hummus, sliced beets, mint

Because hummus and toast are already a match made in heaven; adding sweet earthy beets is just extra pretty and delicious. Fresh mint makes it all sublime.

Mashed white beans, olive oil, thyme

I often have beans leftover after dinner; mashing them onto toast the next day makes for a hearty, tasty lunch.

Goat cheese, roasted grapes

Because once I started roasting whole grapes, I had to start putting them on everything. (See 8 fruits and vegetables you should be roasting whole for more.)

Peanut butter, banana, candied nuts

I often caramelize nuts with maple syrup and cayenne pepper to use in salads and some desserts, so why not on toast with peanut butter and banana?

Anchovy (or miso) butter, roasted peppers, fresh oregano

For the omnivores and pescatarians, mash an anchovy with softened butter; for the vegetarians and vegans, mash miso paste with your go-to buttery spread. Cover toast with it, top with roasted peppers and thyme. This is a combination that brings me to happy tears every time.

Cream cheese, cucumber, dill

A classic combination, especially great with cucumbers piles high and a huge mess of dill.

Ricotta, figs, honey

This one is for fig fans – and everyone is a fig fan, right? The mix of cool creamy ricotta and plump juicy figs with a hint of honey makes for a wonderful, desserty breakfast.

Pureed green peas, sea salt, mint

I love making green pea and mint pesto; it’s very simple but so substantial and super bright in flavor. This is kind of a take on that, just on toast. Kelly has made a similar dish; recipe here: Pea pesto crostini.

Butter, sliced radishes

Butter and radishes love each other – plopped on toast gives the pair an added dimension.

Labneh, persimmon, pomegranate

The gorgeous Middle Eastern yogurt cheese known as labneh is one of my favorite toast toppers. It is so simple to make: Strain greek yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl, in the fridge, for 12 to 24 hours. I confess I have never had it with persimmon and pomegranate seeds, but the photo above has inspired me to make the combination soon, and I am sure that I will love it.

Labneh, sliced pear, nuts

That said, I have put labneh on toast with sliced pears and slivered almonds – and I know that I love it.

Mashed chickpeas, celery, lemon

We make a faux tuna salad at home (we annoyingly call it tuno salad), the recipe for which you can see here: 20 things to do with chickpeas. It is great on toast, but you can also just mash chickpeas and top with celery and lemon (juice and/or zest) for a refreshing alternative to the classic tuna.

Ricotta, grilled or broiled plums

Plums are basically already perfect, but giving them a little heat and char brings them to another level. And then pairing them with ricotta, and then putting it on toast – it’s like, stratosphere stuff.

Mashed tofu with curry powder, sliced apple, raisins

This is a take on curried egg salad and perfect for the salty-spicy-sweet people. (Writer raises hand.)

Mascarpone, roasted winter squash, pumpkin seeds

If you should be so lucky as to have leftover roasted butternut squash (or any of its cousins), and say, some leftover mascarpone cheese, and maybe some pumpkin seeds on hand … you can make pumpkin pie-ish toast and it will make you happy.

Butter, pickles

Is that weird? I don’t know; but I am an unabashed pickle freak and together with butter on toasted bread is one of life’s strange pleasures. Should I be admitting this publicly?

The kitchen sink

This is just a prompt and a reference to all the times I have piled random things on toast. The formula goes like this: A nice piece of toast, a base of something smooth and/or smashed, a layer of something that offer contrast, a piquant or fragrant garnish. Olive oil and flake sea salt almost never hurt for savory toasts; a little drizzle of honey or maple syrup brighten up sweeter combinations.

So there you have it, go forth and toast! Be adventurous, have fun … and if all else fails, grab an avocado.

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7 things you didn’t know about Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day didn’t always involve buying cards, flowers, and candy, but it’s always been about showing moms love and appreciation. Learn how Mother’s Day has evolved over time and get new ideas for celebrating this year.

  1. In the US, Anna Jarvis was inspired to create a day honoring mothers based on the work of her own mother, who taught other mothers about childcare before the Civil War and organized mothers to promote reconciliation afterward.
  2. Mother’s Day became an official US holiday in 1914. It’s celebrated on the same day in both the US and Canada, the second Sunday in May.
  3. By 1920, the holiday had become so commercialized, Jarvis tried to have it “revoked.” (Today, more than 140 million greeting cards are sold for Mother’s Day.)
  4. The US Mother’s Day stamp was issued in 1934. It depicted the painting known as Whistler’s Mother, with a bouquet of flowers added.
  5. In 1968, Coretta Scott King chose Mother’s Day for a march to support women and children in need.
  6. On Mother’s Day, more phone calls are made than any other day.
  7. There are also more restaurant reservations on Mother’s Day than any other day.

3 Fresh Takes: What’s Your Next Move?
There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the Mother’s Day classics. But if you’re up for a detour, you might find a new tradition of your own. Here are just a few opportunities as close as your nearest sustainable forest.

More than 300 million acres (121 million hectares) of forestland throughout North America is certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard which is managed by the independent, non-profit Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). The SFI Forest Management Standard ensures wildlife conservation, water quality, and responsible forestry.

  1. Skip the crowded buffet and pack a simple picnic. Include favorite foods your mom served you as a kid.
  2. Get active. Ninety-eight percent of the forestland certified to the SFI Standard is open for public recreation. You’ll find something for every speed, from birdwatching and walking to cycling and horseback riding.
  3. Support a cause you both care about. Look for tree planting activities and conservation events in your community.

To learn more sustainable forestry and ways to get involved, visit

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Exploring the dark side of the internet: How social media can make us do things that we wouldn’t normally do

Image: Exploring the dark side of the internet: How social media can make us do things that we wouldn’t normally do

(Natural News)
A study from Michigan State University explored the dark side of the internet and showed how social media can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do. The study, published in Present Tense Journal, took a closer look at something called supraplatforms, which are user experiences across social media platforms that manipulate social media users to perform actions they aren’t aware of and which aren’t in their best interest.

Often times, social media acts as a mask, shielding users from the repercussions of their typewritten words. Social media allows users to boast and vent frustrations about certain things, things a person wouldn’t normally blurt out-loud in a crowded room of real people. These internet masks change how people interact online, creating a dereliction in how people represent themselves and how people treat one another online.

Supraplatforms are built from this sensation. When someone posts praise or criticism about something or someone, it gives them more power. That power is multiplied when other online users get behind the praise or criticism. An errant rumor about someone online can quickly garner passionate emotional support from many social media users. These emotionally manipulated users can be tricked into attacking or terrorizing certain users, groups, or belief systems that are the center of the rumor or accusation.

Your tweet, hash tag, or comments online may not be coming from an authentic place inside you. Scrolling Facebook makes you less likely to have an original thought of your own, allowing you to mindlessly echo what you’ve read. You could be manipulated into supporting an attack on someone or some group. Your emotions might be susceptible online to engage in dark patterns where you perform actions that aren’t in your best interest. For example, the trending news that Facebook portrays on its homepage can motivate many Facebook users to engage in conversations and take sides they wouldn’t normally take up. You might think the topic is relevant because Facebook advertised it as a trending topic, but you’re really just being manipulated to think within their paradigm.

Supraplatforms take place across social media networks to garner your support for or against something, using your emotions to force actions you wouldn’t normally take. The repercussions grow as more people are manipulated to take sides against people and causes.

Online comments can quickly build peer pressure

In the GamerGate controversy, one angry social media user inspired thousands of others to back his movement, multiply his messages, and cyberbully innocent users. The thousands who participated didn’t even know they were being used. These online movements aren’t always destructive. “The important thing to consider is what kind of behavior is this community encouraging?” says lead author Liza Potts “If the community is asking you to take action on something, it is definitely worth thinking twice about participating.”

In GamerGate, one person’s rumor about a female game developer became a viral cyberbully movement. The unsubstantiated accusations, originating from the woman’s ex-partner, were represented by the hashtag #GamerGate on Twitter. Other gamers got on board with the attack and shared their negative sentiment about the game developer. The movement got louder. As people disagreed with them and combated the accusations, more people chimed in, for or against. Other inflammatory messages grew from the argument, spurring broader arguments about women, victimization, and media. People who had nothing to do with the original conversation were forced to defend themselves and their position on broader issues. The arguments spilled into Reddit, YouTube, and Facebook, as the original purveyor of the rumor garnered more attention.

“Once certain high-profile Twitter users saw that they could make a name for themselves by polarizing pop culture and other groups involved, it became a free-for-all for those wanting their own attention,” said Michael Trice, co-author of the study.

Facebook, like other social media platforms, is designed to give people “anti-depressant” dopamine rushes as they seek more and more “likes” on their posts. Scrolling Facebook makes you more likely to want admiration from your peers.

The study said that supraplatforms and dark patterns are always taking form across social media platforms and these emotionally manipulative movements change the way people engage with one another, not just online, but in person too. “What seems like a simple conversation on one site can often be part of a much larger operation that spans many different networks,” Trice said. “It’s pretty easy to fall in with a crowd on one platform, receive lots of positive feedback for aggressive behavior and then expand that behavior elsewhere. In that way, it’s not unlike falling in with a bad crowd in other parts of life.”

For more on the dark side of social media, visit Censored.News.

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Why Farmed Salmon Is One Of The Most Toxic Things You Can Put In Your Body

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Fish has long been touted as a super food from doctors, nutritionists and specialists from around the world. Many people choose not to eat meat or other animal products, but show pride in their presumed health conscious decision to consume fish. But, as with almost everything else that is promoted heavily in the media, there’s something fishy about this…

There’s no denying that it contains many essential omega 3’s which are known to be good for your brain, many consider fish ‘brain food’ because of how essential these nutrients are for brain health. Unfortunately, farmed fish, particularly salmon and tilapia, are doing more harm than good and as awareness grows, many experts are now claiming for farmed fish to be one of the most toxic foods in the world.

What’s The Problem With Fish Farms?

Fisheries of today face a series of issues including overfishing, chemical pollution and even genetic mutation from toxic exposures. In Nicholas Daniel’s documentary, “Fillet-Oh-Fish” a critical eye is pointed at the fish farming industries across the globe and features exclusive, insider footage from fish farms and how they operate. According to the producers of the film, “through intensive farming and global pollution, the flesh of the fish we eat has turned into a deadly chemical cocktail.”

Unfortunately, Aquaculture often promotes itself as a sustainable solution to overfishing of the world’s oceans. The reality is that fish farms are actually causing more problems than they are solving and once again, it seems that turning a profit is more important to these corporations than actual sustainability or environmental concern.

Farmed Salmon Is One Of The Most Toxic Foods In The World

The film mentioned above starts off in Norway, documenting the chemicals used in fish farms, Kurt Oddekalv, a respected Norwegian environmental activist, also believes that salmon farming is a disaster for human health as well as the environment.

Below the salmon farms of the Norwegian fjords is a layer of waste that is about 15 meters high and as you can imagine, it is absolutely teeming with bacteria, drugs and pesticides. Because these farms operate in open water the entire seafloor has been destroyed and the pollution created by these farms is not contained. A salmon farm can hold nearly 2 million fish in a fairly small space and because of these crowded conditions disease among the fish is rampant.

In an effort to stave off diseases various pesticides are used, and there is no doubt that if you’re eating this fish then you are also eating these pesticides.

Toxicologist, Jerome Ruzzin has confirmed some of the claims made by Oddekalv. Having tested a number of different food groups sold in Norway for toxins he has found that farmed salmon contains the greatest amount of toxins of them all, and to an extremely large degree. The farmed salmon was five times more toxic than any other food product that was tested. A study, which involved feeding farmed salmon to mice showed how the mice grew obese, specifically with fat around their internal organs and they also developed diabetes.

In recent years, the evidence that diabetes is caused by a lot more than just sugar, specifically toxic chemicals and air pollutants in the food we are consuming is coming to light and this case, we’re learning that salmon farmed in this manner will inevitably contain far more toxins than those in the wild.

Surprisingly, as pointed out in the documentary, the most significant source of toxic exposure to the fish aren’t even the pesticides or antibiotics, but the regular dry pellet food. This contains a whole slough of other toxic chemicals including dioxins and PCB’s, man these fish never stood a chance.

Literally, the list of everything that is wrong with the farmed fish industry just goes on and on, and if you would like to learn more about it I highly suggest checking out the documentary below.

So, What Can We Do?

Stop eating farmed fish at all costs! This is the single most effective thing you can do to save your health and stop this industry from polluting the oceans and our environment. if you haven’t decided to stop consuming animal products and still resonate with eating fish, stick to wild Atlantic salmon, Alaskan salmon (which is not allowed to be farmed) or pick up a new hobby and fish your own. You can tell the difference of farmed and wild fish by it’s colour, farmed fish tends to be very pale pink and wild caught is a deep red.

Wild caught salmon can be pretty pricey, so sardines and anchovies can be a good alternative for their nutritional value and level of sustainability. However, there are a number of plant-based alternatives that can give your brain what it needs without the risk of toxic contamination, these include, but are not limited to, walnuts, brussels sprouts, chia, hemp and flax seeds – just be sure to choose organic.

Saving a few dollars for cheaper fish just isn’t worth it and if you are out at a restaurant or eating sushi, make sure to ask if the fish is farmed and where it comes from. The only way to stop this industry in it’s tracks is to quit supporting it and quite frankly this should be made illegal and in all likelihood, as awareness grows about this massive issue, it is only a matter of time before this will happen.

Much Love

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13 crazy things to know about planet Earth

In celebration of Earth Day: An ode to our awesome orb.

Allow me to roll out a cliché and say that here at TreeHugger, every day is Earth Day. Tips on going green and sustainable design and treehugging in general are business as usual; our modus operandi 24/7. But who would we be to let such a momentous day as April 22 pass without some fanfare? So with that in mind, here’s some praise for the planet, glory for the globe, an all-around high-five highlighting some randomly remarkable features of this wild world we’re so lucky to call home.

1. Earth plays host to deadly, exploding lakes

Why should science fiction and horror movies have all the fun? Earth is pretty dramatic too. We’ve even got exploding lakes. In Cameroon and on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo there are three crater lakes – Nyos, Monoun and Kivu – which sit above volcanic earth. The magma below releases carbon dioxide into the lakes, and the gas can escape to form a limnic eruption, potentially killing everything nearby. Around Kivu Lake, geologists have found evidence of massive biological extinctions about every thousand years.

2. And boiling rivers

Hidden deep in the Peruvian rainforest and overseen by a powerful shaman, the sacred healing site of Mayantuyacu is home to a 4-mile long river that is 82-feet wide and 20 feet deep. And boasts water temperatures that range from 120F degrees to 196F degrees; in some parts it actually boils! Animals who fall in are killed quickly. And while there are hot springs in the Amazon, there is nothing like this river which is known to locals as Shanay-timpishka. (Read more about it here.)

3. The planet is covered in stardust

Every year, 40,000 tons of cosmic dust falls upon our planet. It’s not something we notice, but eventually all that dust, which is made of oxygen, carbon, iron, nickel, and all the other elements, finds its way into our bodies. We are stardust.

4. You can’t keep a good planet still

While we may feel like we’re standing still, of course, we are not. We’re actually spinning wildly and flying through space! It’s a wonder life seems so calm. Depending on where you are, you could be spinning at over 1,000 miles per hour (though those on the North or South poles would be still). Meanwhile, we’re moving around the sun at a zippy 67,000 miles per hour. Whoosh.

5. It has some really cold spots

We’re talking really, really cold. A few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle is the town of Oymyakon, Russia, which in 1933 earned the title as the coldest place on Earth when the temperature dropped to -90F. It is so cold here that people don’t turn their cars off and must heat the ground with a bonfire for days before in order to bury their dead. During the winter, the temperature averages -58F. Who needs mascara when you have crystal eyelashes?

6. And others that are as hot as Hades

On the other end of the mercury, Death Valley plays home to the hottest temperatures recorded: the hottest on the planet being 134F on July 10, 1913. That was not a good week in the desert; temperatures reached 129F or above on five consecutive days. More recently, the summer of 2001 saw 100F for 154 consecutive days, while the summer of 1996 was bestowed with 105 days over 110F and 40 days when the mercury reached 120F.

7. The high highs are really high

At 29,028 feet above sea level, Mount Everest is the highest place on Earth when measured by sea level. But if you measure height based on the distance from the center of the planet, Mount Chimaborazo in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador takes the prize. Although Chimaborazo is about 10,000 feet shorter (relative to sea level) than Everest, this mountain is about 1.5 miles farther into space because of the equatorial bulge.

8. And the low down is deep

The lowest point on Earth is the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. It reaches down about 36,200 feet, nearly 7 miles, below sea level.

9. The planet has rocks that scoot themselves

In a remote stretch of Death Valley, a lakebed known as Racetrack Play plays home to one of the natural world’s more compelling mysteries: Rocks that sail across the bed of the lake, propelled by nothing that anyone can see. It’s a puzzle that has long-stumped scientists, and has rarely ever been seen in action, save for the long meandering tracks left behind in the mud surface. One theory holds that the scooting is caused by a succinct combination of rain, wind, ice and sun all playing on concert.

10. And dunes that sing

Around 30 places across the planet have sand dunes that sing and croak, creating low droning music that lands somewhere between chanting monks and a swarm of bees. From the Gobi Desert and Death Valley to the Sahara and Chilean desert, the source of the sounds has long remained a mystery, although there are a number of theories explaining the sonic phenomena, it remains a hotly debated topic.

11. There’s a sweet spot for lightning

Every night in northwestern Venezuela, where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, a thunderstorm occurs. And not just a passing show, but a storm that can last up to 10 hours and averaging 28 lightning strikes per minute. Known as Relámpago del Catatumbo (the Catatumbo Lightning) it can strike as many as 3,600 bolts in an hour. Every night!

12. The world below is a giant, mysterious thing

We think we’re so fancy with our terrestrial lives, but you should see what’s going on down in the coral reefs. It is there in which exists the most species per unit area of any of the planet’s ecosystems, even more than the rainforests. And while the reefs are comprised of tiny individual coral polyps, together they form the largest living structures on Earth, even visible from space.

13. And we don’t know the half of it

While oceans cover around 70 percent of the planet, we’ve only explored some 5 percent of them. In a similar vein, scientists estimate that there are anywhere between 5 million and 100 million species on Earth, but … we have identified only about 2 million of them. We think we know it all, but there is so much left to discover. What a wonderful world!

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