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Celebs tout ice baths, but science on benefits is lukewarm

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Celebs tout ice baths, but science on benefits is lukewarm

The coolest thing on social media these days may be celebrities and regular folks plunging into frigid water or taking ice baths.

The touted benefits include improved mood, more energy, and weight loss and reduced inflammation, but the science supporting some of those claims is lukewarm.

Kim Kardashian posted her foray on Instagram. Harry Styles has tweeted about his dips. Kristen Bell says her plunges are “brutal” but mentally uplifting. And Lizzo claims ice plunges reduce inflammation and make her body feel better.

Here’s what medical evidence, experts and fans say about the practice, which dates back centuries.

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THE MIND

You might call Dan O’Conor an amateur authority on cold water immersion. Since June 2020, the 55-year-old Chicago man has plunged into Lake Michigan almost daily, including on frigid winter mornings when he has to shovel through the ice.

“The endorphin rush … is an incredible way to wake up and just kind of shock the body and get the engine going,” O’Conor said on a recent morning when the air temperature was a frosty 23 degrees (minus-5 Celsius). Endorphins are “feel good” hormones released in response to pain, stress, exercise and other activities.

With the lake temperature 34 degrees (1 Celsius), the bare-chested O’Conor did a running jump from the snow-covered shore to launch a forward flip into the icy grey water.

His first plunge came early in the pandemic when he went on a bourbon bender and his annoyed wife told him to “go jump in the lake.” The water felt good that June day. The world was in a coronavirus funk, O’Conor says, and that made him want to continue. As the water grew colder with the seasons, the psychological effect was even greater, he said.

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“My mental health is a lot stronger, a lot brighter. I found some Zen down here coming down and jumping into the lake and shocking that body,” O’Conor said.

Dr Will Cronenwett, chief of psychiatry at Northwestern University’s Feinberg medical school, tried cold-water immersion once, years ago while visiting Scandinavian friends on a Baltic island. After a sauna, he jumped into the ice-cold water for a few minutes and had what he called an intense and invigorating experience.

THE HEART

Cold water immersion raises blood pressure and increases stress on the heart. Studies have shown this is safe for healthy people and the effects are only temporary.

But it can be dangerous for people with heart trouble, sometimes leading to life-threatening irregular heartbeats, Cronenwett said. People with heart conditions or a family history of early heart disease should consult a physician before plunging, he said.

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METABOLISM

Repeated cold-water immersions during winter months have been shown to improve how the body responds to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels, Mercer noted. This might help reduce risks for diabetes or keep the disease under better control in people already affected, although more studies are needed to prove that.

Cold water immersion also activates brown fat — tissue that helps keep the body warm and helps it control blood sugar and insulin levels. It also helps the body burn calories, which has prompted research into whether cold water immersion is an effective way to lose weight. The evidence so far is inconclusive.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

Anecdotal research suggests that people who routinely swim in chilly water get fewer colds, and there’s evidence that it can increase levels of certain white blood cells and other infection-fighting substances. Whether an occasional dunk in ice water can produce the same effect is unclear.

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Among the biggest unanswered questions: How cold does water have to be to achieve any health benefits? And will a quick dunk have the same effect as a long swim?

“There is no answer to ‘the colder the better,’” Mercer said. “Also, it depends on the type of response you are looking at. For example, some occur very quickly, like changes in blood pressure. … Others, such as the formation of brown fat, take much longer.”

O’Conor plunges year-round, but he says winter dunks are the best for “mental clarity,” even if they sometimes last only 30 seconds.

On those icy mornings, he is “blocking everything else out and knowing that I got to get in the water, and then more importantly, get out of the water.”

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Govt promulgates new ordinance to amend NAB ordinance

Govt promulgates new ordinance to amend NAB ordinance

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The incumbent government has introduced a new amendment in the NAB ordinance.

A new ordinance has been issued in this regard with the approval of acting president Yusaf Raza Gilani.

As per the new amendment, the remand period has been increased from 14 days to 40 days.

Also, in case of any mala fide intention regarding the case by a NAB officer, his punishment has been reduced from five years to two years.

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Google invests 1 billion euros in Finnish data centre to drive AI growth

Google invests 1 billion euros in Finnish data centre to drive AI growth

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Google invests 1 billion euros in Finnish data centre to drive AI growth

Alphabet-owned Google (GOOGL.O) will invest a further 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) into the expansion of its data centre campus in Finland to drive its artificial intelligence (AI) business growth in Europe, it said in a statement on Monday.

In recent years, many data centres have been located in the Nordic countries because of the region’s cooler climate, tax breaks and abundant availability of renewable power.

Finland’s Nordic neighbours Sweden and Norway have recently grown increasingly critical of hosting them, with some industry experts arguing the Nordic countries should use their renewable power for products such as green steel that could leave higher surplus value in the countries.

But Finland’s wind power capacity has increased so rapidly in recent years, by 75% to 5,677 megawatts in 2022 alone, that on windy days prices have plummeted to negative, industry statistics showed.

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Therefore there is still renewable capacity available for data centres such as Google’s, which acquires wind power in Finland under long term contracts.

Analysts believe data centres’ power consumption is set to massively increase due to the rapid growth in AI usage, which Google, too, cited for one of the reasons behind its investment decision, alongside its Hamina data centre in Finland already operating with 97% carbon-free energy.

“Heat coming out of our Finnish data center will be re-routed to the district heating network in nearby Hamina, covering local households, schools and public service buildings,” Google said in the statement. It added that it aimed to achieve net zero emissions across all of its operations and value chain by 2030.

In addition to its Finnish investment, the search and cloud giant announced last month it would build new data centres in the Netherlands and Belgium.

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Scientists create first ‘brain’ computer using water, salt

Scientists create first ‘brain’ computer using water, salt

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Scientists create first 'brain' computer using water, salt

A fascinating new study has detailed how scientists recreated a “brain” computer using salt and water.

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, with experts recently discovering that it is even more powerful than first thought.

Now, physicists from Utrecht University in the Netherlands have come together with fellow experts from Sogang University in South Korea to successfully create an artificial synapse.

While attempting to improve the way brain-like computers work, experts have looked to the human brain to help with the development.

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They reasoned that, if the human brains use water and dissolved salt particles, it could be possible that brain-like computers might be able to, rather than the conventional solid material

The results were published in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and revealed that for the first time, they were able to create a tiny system measuring 150 by 200 micrometres that relied on salt and water to process information.

What they created mimicked a synapse – a key component of the human brain that is responsible for transmitting nervous signals.

PhD candidate at the Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Mathematical Institute of Utrecht University, and the lead author of the study, Tim Kamsma, said: “While artificial synapses capable of processing complex information already exist based on solid materials, we now show for the first time that this feat can also be accomplished using water and salt.”

He explained: “We are effectively replicating neuronal behaviour using a system that employs the same medium as the brain.’

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The tiny device that replicated a synapse capable of using salt and water was developed by experts in Korea and helped Kamsma to prove his theory within just three months.

“Coincidently, our paths crossed with the research group in South Korea during that period,” Kamsma recalled. “They embraced my theory with great enthusiasm and swiftly initiated experimental work based on it.”

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