The 21st Show

ENCORE: Seniors And Misinformation; How Poverty Affects Our Genes; Unplugging From Technology To Fully Experience Nature


Jenny Kane/AP

We're continuing this week with some of our favorite past segments related to science and technology. Nature versus nurture is one of the oldest debates there is. But the answer might actually be neither. That’s because researchers at Northwestern have found experiencing poverty actually has an effect on your DNA. Plus, figuring out what’s true or false online can be tricky for everyone, but it turns out, older Americans are especially vulnerable to misinformation on social media. Also, in a world of never ending buzzing and alerts, research suggests that in order to get the full benefits of nature, you have to leave your devices at home.

Seniors And Digital Misinformation

Misinformation has been a problem for a long time. But, if you think back to the 2016 election, it was a time when it seemed like that problem was amplified on social media.

Since then, we’ve learned more about how misinformation spreads online, and how well equipped we are to handle it. There’s also been an increase in funding for programs that promote digital and media literacy, supported in some cases with money from tech giants like Apple and Facebook.  

But many of them are designed for young people, even if a growing body of research suggests that it's our oldest citizens who are most vulnerable to false news and misinformation on the internet.

That’s the subject of a recent piece by Craig Silverman, BuzzFeed’s media editor. Lisa Gameos, works at AARP in Washington as program manager of their Learn at 50+ program. Carol Tilley is an associate professor at the University of Illinois’ School of Information Sciences.

How Poverty Affects Our Genes

How much of your life is about your decisions, and how much of it was already determined at birth? That’s the nature vs. nurture debate that’s at the heart of many issues whether we’re thinking about public health, education or economic mobility.

According to researchers at Northwestern University, the answer might be neither because of the way the human genome actually works. A new study shows that experiencing poverty actually affects our genes in a significant way. 

Thomas McDade is the lead author of this study. He’s a professor of anthropology and a faculty fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. Calen Ryan was part of the research team. He’s a PhD candidate at Northwestern, specializing in human biology and reproductive ecology.

Unplugging To Fully Experience Nature

It’s becoming increasingly hard to unplug. You’ve got cell phones and tablets, social media and games, and yes, of course, the news. So today, we’re going to talk about taking a break from all of that by stepping outside and getting some fresh air. 

It seems logical that if you really want to take a break you should leave your devices behind. But now we’ve got some scientific research that backs up that idea.

Illinois landscape architect William Sullivan was one of the people behind that research. He’s the head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the U of I. Brenda Spitzer is a forest therapy guide at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

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