Could the sun be your lucky — or unlucky — star? In an unusual study published Wednesday, Norwegian scientists said people born during periods of solar calm may live longer, as much as five years on average, than those who enter the world when the sun is feisty.
The team overlaid demographic data of Norwegians born between 1676 and 1878 with observations of the Sun.
The lifespan of those born in periods of solar maximum — interludes marked by powerful flares and geomagnetic storms — was “5.2 years shorter” on average than those born during a solar minimum, they found.
Photo: Reuters/Jim Young
“Solar activity at birth decreased the probability of survival to adulthood,” thus truncating average lifespan, according to the paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
There was a stronger effect on girls than boys, it said.
The sun has cycles that last 11 years, give or take, from one period of greatest activity or solar maximum, to the next. Solar maxima are marked by an increase in sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections that can disrupt radio communications and electrical power on Earth, damage satellites and disturb navigational equipment.
Solar activity is also linked to levels of ultraviolet radiation — an environmental stressor known to affect survival and reproductive performance, possibly by causing cell and DNA damage, according to the study authors.
The team, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, based their study on demographic data from church records of some 8,600 individuals from two different mid-Norwegian populations, one poor and one wealthy.
This was matched to maps of historical solar cycles.
On top of lifespan, being born in a solar maximum period also “significantly reduced” fertility for women born into the poor category, but not for wealthier women or for men, said the authors.
“We show for the first time that not only infant survival and thus lifespan but also fertility is statistically associated with solar activity at birth,” they wrote.
It was not clear whether the same would necessarily hold true for people born in the modern era.
One explanation could be ultraviolet-induced degradation of the B vitamin folate, a shortage of which before birth has been linked to higher rates of illness and death, the team theorized.
“Our findings suggest that maternal exposure to solar activity during gestation can affect the fitness of female children,” the authors wrote.
“The effect of socio-economic status on the relationship between solar activity and fertility suggests that high-status pregnant women were better able to avoid the adverse effects of high solar activity” — possibly by staying out of the sun or because a healthier diet curbed the harm.
The team did not have data about how early or late into a solar maximum event the children were born — a limitation of the study. And they could not fully distinguish between pre-natal or post-natal exposure to ultraviolet light.
Further investigation is needed, they said, to test whether the results were repeated in people of different skin colors and those living at different latitudes.
“This study is the first to emphasize the importance of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in early life,” the authors said. “UVR is a global stressor with potential ecological impacts and the future levels of UVR are expected to increase due to climate change and variation in atmospheric ozone.”
Tobie Openshaw is confident that Taiwan’s government has good reasons for not including him in the Triple Stimulus Voucher Program, which launched at the beginning of this month. That’s just as well, because it seems unlikely he’ll ever discover the logic by which it was decided that he, along with other foreign residents not currently married to Taiwan citizens, shouldn’t receive the vouchers. “We’ve stood side-by-side with our Taiwanese friends through the COVID-19 crisis, complying with government measures, cheering its success and sharing that news with the world at large. If the stimulus coupons are meant to be spent to keep
When the BBC approached Caroline Chia (查慧中) in July 2018, and asked her to make arrangements so a documentary-making team could gather footage showing how global warming may be increasing typhoon intensity, she delivered everything that was in her power to provide. Chia got permission for the BBC crew to shoot inside the Central Emergency Operation Center, film the army’s disaster-relief efforts and follow mayors around as they supervised the cleaning up. “In total, it was about one week of work for my cousin — who’s my business partner — and I,” recalls Chia, who was born in Taipei but
John Thomson was a pioneering photographer in the 19th century and one of the first to journey to East Asia. In 1871, while in China he met Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell, a fellow Scotsman who was returning to Taiwan, where he served as a Presbyterian missionary. Maxwell’s description of Taiwan intrigued Thomson, and the photographer decided to accompany Maxwell to the island then known to Westerners as Formosa. Disembarking at Takow (today’s Kaohsiung) on April 2, 1871, Thomson brought with him the best photography equipment of his time, along with thousands of glass plates — an estimated 200kg of equipment. The
Taiwan’s artist community was outraged when the authorities banned Lee Shih-chiao’s (李石樵) Reclining Nude (橫臥裸婦) from the 1936 Taiyang Art Exhibition (台陽美術展覽會). The Taiwan Daily News (台灣日日新報) reported that after hours of deliberation, the officials censored the piece for “contravening public morals.” Although the government did have rules on publicly displaying nude art, the state-run Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition regularly featured naked women, allowing more revealing pieces each year. On the same page, the newspaper ran a scathing criticism of the decision by an anonymous artist. “This is completely laughable … If they really thought [Reclining Nude] contravened public morals, they