We have done it! 

1 year of blogging every week about things that kept me curious. I have learnt so much, right from neuroscience, psychology, mathematics, and cooking. Over the year, I have been able to reach out to 20,000 new readers for the blog. Small, consistent incremental improvements do magic.

I will be shifting down on the curiosity box but I will keep up my consistency on learning more and writing better.

This week, the topics that kept me curious are

1 – How does the iron dome work?

2 – Is junk food craving a thing?

1 – How does the iron dome work?

An iron dome is a type of defence system against missiles and rockets. Although the technology has been operational since 2011, it has gained popularity in the recent events between Israel and Palestine. 

In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Israel needed a state-of-art defence system. The US, UK, and Israel joined hands to create an anti-missile/rocket system. The Iron Dome comprises three fundamental elements, detection and tracking radar, a battle management and weapon control system (BMC) and a missile-firing unit (MFU). 

The system:

The RADAR unit sends out electromagnetic waves in short pulses. The pulses may bounce back to the receiver in the RADAR unit after getting reflected by objects such as missiles. Complex algorithms spring to action instantly to calculate the position of the missile. 

After detecting and identifying the rocket, Iron Dome radar monitors its path. Based on the radar’s information, the BMC analyses the path of the threat and calculates an anticipated point of impact. This information is relayed to the MFU. The missile from the Iron Dome itself has multiple control systems to help manoeuvre the missile to stop the incoming missile. 

It is said that the Iron Dome has stopped over 2400 missiles with a 90%+ accuracy. A highly complex system that does the job.

2 – Junk food craving, is that a thing?

This question popped up in my mind after watching this 6-minute video of a self-experiment on what happens when our diets have 80% of processed food. 

Unfortunately, our reward centre and appetite control centre overlaps in our brain. This is not good news with junk food around. Junk food has the perfect blend of components that gets our pleasure centres stimulated and makes us want to continue doing that. This type of reaction is similar to how people get addicted to smoking or even drugs. 

The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that determines if we are hungry. The hypothalamus takes the help of three hormones – insulin, leptin, and ghrelin – to make the decision.

Our bodies release insulin when there is high glucose due to carbohydrate breakdown – in our bloodstream. Leptin levels in our blood are based on the amount of lipids(fat) in our bloodstream. Finally, ghrelin, the hunger control hormone, tells the brain that the body needs food. One way you can tell that ghrelin is being released is when your stomach growls. 

If these three hormones communicate with the hypothalamus and tell it that the body has enough energy. The problem occurs when we are not able to differentiate hunger and cravings. And when it comes to junk food eating, it is primarily a result of craving and not real hunger. There are two types of food cravings: selective and nonselective. Selective cravings are cravings for specific foods of your liking. Nonselective hunger is the desire to eat anything.

“Eating ultra-processed food became something my brain simply tells me to do, without me even wanting it”

Dr Chris van Tulleken

Studies have shown that people tend to eat 500 calories more than necessary by eating more processed food. Also, people eating junk food tend to eat faster. Thereby got giving enough time for your body to tell the hypothalamus that you are full. This results in a state where you think you need to eat more… and more… even though you don’t need to.

Lack of sleep and stress can make us want to eat by stimulating the release of ghrelin. Also, at a psychological level, people find eating to help them distract themselves from stressful situations. 

The goal here is to listen to your body. And my tip here is to go calculative with the calorie intake till you get the hang of it.  

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