“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.” Patrick Süskind, Perfume
Bioactive perfume. So many fictive possibilities, imagine a world where you are olfactory manipulated: Scents of a sexually suitable partners, scents of being in love. Pure body language. Well, we are not too far away from that Science Fiction-esque dream: A while ago scientists from the Max Planck Institute discovered that women prefer the smell of men who have different immune gene variants than they themselves have and are now cracking the olfactory code for partner selection and synthesizing the first biologically effective perfume. Musk, amber, zibet… there are tons of skinlike fragrances that aim to mock the both sensual and sexual scent of skin since medieval times. Most of them extracted from animal bi-products that oftentimes exploit or kill the animal. But now it can be produced synthetically without resorting to animal products. Read the rest at scitechdaily.com here.
Another great article i found about neuroscientific chances of modern scents showed how animals separate smells, such as food sources or the scent of predators, from background information. In an August 3 paper in Nature Neuroscience, a team of researchers led by Venkatesh Murthy, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, showed that while mice can be trained to detect specific odorants embedded in random mixtures and how their performance drops steadily with increasing background components. “This study is interesting because it first shows that smells are not always perceived as one whole object – they can be broken down into their pieces” Murthy said. “(…) we can now get a better understanding of how the brain does this. One can also imagine that understanding how this is done may also allow us to build artificial olfactory systems that can detect specific chemicals in the air that are buried amidst a plethora of other odors.” Check out the rest of the ‘olfactory cocktail party’ article here, Ea Birkkam.
“Then there are the other times. The times when photography really gets me down. The times when I think it’s all pointless. It’s all been done before. These are the times when I hate photography.” Mark Whitney
Mark Whitney, developer, poet (see here) and great black and white photographer. He seems very down to earth and a little bit funny: ‘Forestrat.com’ a rather rough alternative domain name for Mr. Whitney’s homepage, but you get the idea. He loves being in nature and randomly capturing beautiful moments. I came across his work when i looked for monochromatic river photography and suddenly i am all in the mood for a walk in a forest. Spellbinding, detail loving art. I do like to read the blog entry the photograph comes with, most of the times he records his thoughts on it and things that move him. Oh, and contrary to the quote i posted on top there are moments aswell when he loves photography:
“Sometimes I still have that same sense of wonder and excitement about photography. I don’t see the images magically loom out from below the surface of developer anymore, but I sit and watch as they popup on my screen while they download from my camera and I often find myself just sitting and watching as a new print advances millimeter by millimeter from under the printer carriage. You might think it’s like watching paint dry, but I’m just thrilled to see something that I created and set in motion materialize before my eyes. And it’s even better than the old toy because these prints are made completely by me and not just re-prints of prefabbed negatives (…) I check out the lines and forms of the scenes, the careful exposures, the meticulous development of the film, the texture of the print surface, and the subtle shadings especially in black and white work that fire the imagination and show more to the viewer than meets the eye.
These are the times when I love photography.” For a walk, Ea Birkkam.
“Beauty is certainly a soft, smooth, slippery thing, and therefore of a nature which easily slips in and permeates our souls” Plato, Lysis
Long, healthy and beautiful nails. There is an ocean of products promising it and most of them are nail polishes. You find them in almost every colour. But if you have really brittle nails you look for a great nail hardener first and most of the polishes have formaldehyde as a hardening agent which is neither good to breathe in or when touching the skin (see here). Today I came across a very interesting article in the Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research about a product that sounds kind of auspicious, it is characterized as a “medical nail polish.” A colorless, water soluble nail lacquer which is a medical device for treating nail dystrophy (very brittle nails). You have mainly 3 ingredients that make it work:
-Hydroxypropyl-chitosan (HPCH), which is a bio polymer and a film former (similar chemistry as shrimp shells).
-Horse tail extract (ancient roman house remedy for brittle nails and a diuretic- ok, let us skip this one…)
-Methylsulphonyl-methane (a penetration enhancer, presumably to deliver the HPCH into the nail.)
So far i came across 3 products available online, check the right bar for them, i would love to test one of them the next weeks and see how it works. Regards, Ea Birkkam.
“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” Franz Kafka
Never without a makeup remover, post shower oil or a good face serum if you have a bottle of olive oil in your kitchen (which i guess you do). The oil you dip your bread in can also have great benefits for your skin. Basically the chemical principles of cleaning your face with olive oil is that “like dissolves like.” It means that oil-based makeup and the oil on your skin would dissolve when olive oil is used as a cleanser. Almost every waterproof mascara i had to fight with came off with olive oil.
But it is also a great moisturizer and anti-carcinogenic. Two studies on mice have found that out: One study showed that topical application of olive oil delayed the onset of UVB-caused tumors (read here). Another study found that a diet rich in olive oil helped inhibit lung cancer (see here), so keep dipping that bread in olive oil. Several classes of polyphenols it contains are the reason for both cases (read it here).
Another great fact is that olive oil not only protects from UV-induced tumors but has also been shown to help protect skin from UV-rays altogether (see here). Resveratrol, an antioxidant polyphenol with major anti-aging properties (read here) can also be found in Olive oil (see here). So i think we have plenty scientific research on olive oil telling us a few drops on your skin every now and then is more than good for you. Just be sure to have a good cold-pressed version of it. Hungry for olives, Ea Birkkam.
“A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true, for if the things be false, the apprehension of them is not understanding.” Isaac Newton
Futuristic, haptic footwear. It got my immediate attention as i am a big fan of futuristic design and life improving features. Developed by Ducere Technologies and available for approximately 100-150$, the Lechal smartshoe is somehow comparable to Google Glass — though it’s not able to take POV pictures and videos.
You can either choose the Lechal smartshoe or only insoles which you can slip into your own shoes. Via Bluetooth the smartshoe connects to your iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device. The insole contains the usual slew of sensors that you would expect from a wearable computer, allowing the companion app to accurately track how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’ve burnt, and so on. What truly sets the Lechal apart from a fitness band, though, is that each insole can vibrate. I am not so sure if I am a fan of vibrating shoes (tickles) but it seems practical. I wish they would come as monochrome as in the pictures above, but you have beautiful black with red linings if that is fair enough for you. What do you think about them? Best, Ea Birkkam
“Science and art are only too often a superior kind of dope, possessing this advantage over booze and morphia: that they can be indulged in with a good conscience and with the conviction that, in the process of indulging, one is leading the ‘higher life’.” Aldous Huxley
Blemish and age defense. Almost every face care serum that concerns both topics has a magic little ingredient on its INCI labels: LHA or Beta-Lipohydroxy Acid, an innovative, lipophilic derivative of salicylic acid. And no wonder, it is so much better than your Clearasil: in combination products that include salicylic acid, the LHA/salicylic acid combination is more effective than salicylic acid alone and still it is less irritating than salicylic acid alone. LHA has an eight-carbon fatty chain connected to the aromatic benzene ring (see picture above). This “attachment” allows for LHA to be more lipophilic than salicylic acid, while penetrating less deeply, which may partially account for its lower irritation potential.
According to results of prospective, randomized, double-blind studies presented by Brigitte Dréno, Doctor of Medicine, at the World Congress of Dermatology. “LHA is a keratolytic that prevents the formation of new microcomedones, which are the first lesions of acne. Through that activity it can help to maintain clearing in persons who have responded well to acne treatment but also act synergistically with tretinoin, decreasing the delay to efficacy while allowing a decrease in the frequency of tretinoin application to reduce side effects and improve patient compliance,” she said (read here). LHA has been shown to stimulate renewal of epidermal cells and of the extracellular matrix which makes it a potent anti-aging compound aswell. Anyways, most of the research is done by the company itself (La Roche Posay) and it yet lacks a little research by independent scientist (more here). Best, Ea Birkkam.
“Ice contains no future , just the past, sealed away. As if they’re alive, everything in the world is sealed up inside, clear and distinct. Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way- cleanly, clearly. That’s the essence of ice, the role it plays.” Haruki Murakami in ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’
Realism and nature. Stuart Franklin is a photographer with many facettes, no wonder at all he was selceted to be one of Magnum’s Photographer, a very famous agency which rarely chooses its own members. You are very likely to have seen at least one Magnum photo in your life if you read National Geographic or any other magazine that features fantastic photography. He became very well-known covering the famine the mid-1980s in the Sahel, which showed all the misfortune and devastation that was coming over this zone in Africa (see here).
He said following about Narcissus in an Interview with Vice Magazine: “For me, Narcissus was a bit like going back to playing scales if you were a musician. Just trying to sharpen one’s vision and address one’s focus. I had started to reflect on the notion of landscape photography, the nature of photography in general. And actually, landscape is like anything, what was drawing me to it was abstraction, cutting something out of the cloth of what’s in front of you. I wondered, if there were no expectations placed upon me – as there are, of course, when you shoot landscapes for National Geographic, for example – then what would actually draw me? It turned out that what drew me to landscapes were things that were resonant of memories I had, the very human social life I had led. The forms I recognised in the landscape were human forms, shapes that were semi-human or zoomorphic. I think Freud, when talking about photography, connected it far more to the function of memory than of vision. It was completely different, yes, and I won’t be doing it again, but I learned a lot from it. I learned to work in a small place and limit my needs. It was Spartan in itself and very coherent.” Very well said Mr. Franklin, Ea Birkkam.
“Art is the right hand of Nature. The latter has only given us being, the former has made us men.” Friedrich Schiller
Babassu Oil or cusi oil is a South American light yellow vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of Attalea speciosa (a palm). In cosmetics this oil has properties similar to coconut oil and is a great alternative to it. Babassu oil is about 70 per cent lipids (mostly Lauric-, Myristic-, Palmitic-, Oleic-, Stearic Fatty Acid; read here) and therefore a great skin-like oil since Lauric and myristic acids have melting points comparable to human body temperature. It makes a great solid melt followed by a cooling sensation.
Buriti Oil or moriche oil comes from a South American swamp palm. It is a dark orange oil extracted from the fruit of the moriche palm. The oil contains high concentrations of oleic acid, tocopherols (vit e) and carotenoids (vit a), especially betacarotene (more here). There is scientific research about the Oil on filtering and absorbing cancer-causing UV rays from the sun (see here). It would make a great tanning oil with light spf.
Tamanu Oil, a polynesian dark/greenish inedible oil, has proven track record as a skin healing agent through its unique process of Cicatrization (ability to speed up wound healing and promote the formation of new tissue, read here). It is a widely used traditional tropic aid and Pacifit island folk medicine uses it liberally on cuts, burns, insect bites, acne and more. Feeling tropical, Ea Birkkam
“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over” F. Scott Fitzgerald
The body is a biochemical power house and regular sport activities are vital to our metabolism and a long, happy life. Moreover it is instantly mood-uplifting and clears the mind. There are endless myths about nutrition and healthy intakes but, in my honest opinion, the most important thing is to know how your body breaks down and stores energy. Ever wondered why you are hungry when you skip your carbs? To start off we have to take a look at the functions of glycogen (structure see here), a multibranched polysaccharide of glucose serving as a form of energy storage.
As a carb meal is digested, your blood glucose level rises and the pancreas secretes insulin. Blood glucose from the portal vein enters liver cells. There, the insulin acts on them to stimulate the action of several enzymes. Glucose molecules are added to the chains of glycogen as long as both insulin and glucose remain plentiful. Now after a meal has been digested and you have a big pause of intakes the glucose levels begin to fall, insulin secretion is reduced, and glycogen synthesis stops. When it is needed for energy, glycogen is broken down and converted again to glucose. Oh, and the human body is able to store 200 to 500 grams at one time, which is approximately enough energy for half of a day. Best way to stay lean? Never be too hungry (low insulin levels), add complex carbohydrates that take a little longer to digest (e.g. whole wheat or brown rice with grain) to your menu and go outside/ move a lot. There is no other magic pill but knowing how stuff works. Best, Ea Birkkam.
“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” Henri Matisse
Blue, calming and naturally anti-inflammatory. Azulene, named after the Spanish word for “blue,” azul, is an organic compound; an isomer of naphthalene, the simplest polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (see here). Whereas naphthalene is colourless, azulene is beautifully dark blue, i really like the colour. Almost since the 15th century it is derived from the steam distillation of chamomile, blue tansy, roman chamomile or yarrow. Azulene oil is a very calming ingredient and used in skincare products for sensitive, irritated skin. The fact it is calmingly blue (see this exotic azulene-coloured mushroom here) makes it a very interesting colouring compound aswell.
Sadly azulene is mildly comedogenic and slightly problematic for people with super-oily skin. Furthermore ther seems to be research indicating that azulene can cause cellular mutation when exposed to UVA light and you might want to stick to rinse off products only if you expose your skin to alot of sun. But still, it makes a fantastic ingredient for an anti-redness face mask, just be sure to wash it off. Calmly, Ea Birkkam