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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Biology

In Elemental. More on Medium.

New research suggests human biology only knows winter and spring

Image: Xuanyu Han/Getty Images

Autumn leaves changing color. The first winter snow. Daffodil blossoms signaling the start of spring. The long, hot days of summer. At temperate latitudes in Europe and the Americas, nature’s four seasons are a big part of people’s lives. But it turns out human biology has a different schedule.


A closer look at hypnic jerks

Images by the author (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ahh… sleep. How nice. You turn off the lights. You close your weary eyes. You sigh. You relax. Your breathing slows down. Your mind begins to wander off, fading into the nightly oblivion.

What’s a hypnic jerk?


The fizzing may be fun, but it’s not helping you heal

Photo: Jupiterimages/Getty Images

When I was a child, hydrogen peroxide was a staple of our family’s first aid kit. The dark brown bottle contained clear liquid that stung and bubbled when applied to cuts or scrapes. “Don’t worry,” I was told when I complained about the sting. “It kills bacteria, so your wound won’t get infected.”

How hydrogen peroxide works

To understand hydrogen peroxide’s mechanism, let’s start with what it is. The…


The new science of ‘disease tolerance’ could open the door to revolutionary Covid-19 treatments

Illustration: Cha Pornea

One of the tragic ironies of disease-causing infections is that, in many cases, it’s not the offending virus or bacteria that kills. At least not directly. It’s the immune system’s response to a pathogen — or, more accurately, its over-response — that ultimately causes internal destruction and death.


Illustration: Kieran Blakey

The Nuance

By providing a window onto the body’s inner workings, biofeedback could help people control what was once thought to be ungovernable

The man’s boasts were outlandish. Wim Hof, a 51-year-old Dutch endurance athlete, claimed that he could voluntarily control his own immune system — ramping its activity up or down at will. Moreover, he said that he could teach this skill to others.


There’s a scientific reason why so many people are graying right now

Photo: NinaMalyna/Getty Images

A few months into quarantine, Amy Cannon noticed more gray hairs than usual. “I distinctly remember looking up from washing my hands one day and thinking ‘Oh, wow,’” says the 32-year-old writing professor. “The sprinkling of grays was more pronounced, and especially visible at my part.”


Mutation is a natural part of virus biology

Illustration: Virginia Gabrielli

Worries that the coronavirus might mutate to become even more infectious and deadly are understandable — but mostly unwarranted. It’s true that viruses tend to mutate as they spread across the world over time. And it’s also true that those mutations have the potential to give viruses new, perhaps harmful, traits. But fortunately, the likelihood of that actually happening is extremely slim, according to science.


Illustration: Alexis Jamet

Elemental Light Week

In the absence of light, how do your body and mind behave?

This story is a part of Elemental Light Week, a five-day series on what light does for your body, brain, and well-being.


Illustrations: Alexis Jamet

Elemental Light Week

Too much light at night, too little during the day: how our bodies are evolving to adapt to modern life

This story is a part of Elemental Light Week, a 5-day series on what light does for your body, brain, and well-being.


Neurotransmitter testing kits promise insights into mental health based on a simple urine analysis

Credit: bogdandreava/Getty Images

Today, from the comfort of my own home, I can spit in a tube to see where my ancestors are from, take a blood sample by pricking my finger to see how fertile I am, and, apparently, pee in a cup to see exactly why I’m depressed and anxious.

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