Wheat Belly

Despite the fact that my love of food brought me to this research, some of my findings are pushing me away from the foods I’ve always loved. During a conversation with some family friends in New Orleans over genetically modified foods, I was begged to read Wheat Belly, a book that our family friends claimed had changed their lives. I borrowed the New York Times Bestseller and took it with me on a beach vacation to New Jersey, hoping that I would have some valuable time on the beach to knock out a few books on my list. Despite the novels emphasis on weight loss, there are some scary truths hidden in these now sand-ridden pages. In Wheat Belly, cardiologist William Davis details the changes that science has brought to modern wheat over the past fifty years, namely changing the fourteen-chromosome wild grass that our bodies are used to into a forty-two chromosome dwarf-sized excuse for wheat that is unable to survive in the wild without human intervention. This new wheat, he argues, is uniquely responsible for causing harms to our digestive system, blood sugar, pH, skin, heart and brain. This new “wheat” grew out of an effort by Dr. Borlaug in hopes of relieving world hunger by manufacturing a wheat that produced a higher yield (hence the shorter “dwarf” stalk). The scary evidence is that this new genetically modified wheat was introduced to the public market without any human or animal testing. It is only now, as celiac disease is on the rise (fourfold over the past fifty years) that individuals are beginning to question the potential complications that this “wheat” brings. I’m having a difficult time eating all the pasta dishes that I learned how to while in Berkeley! I hope that soon this book will go along with Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, and The Jungle into the category of information that managed to influence my diet but then eventually allowed it to return to normal. Part of research is reading the other side of the argument, even if that means not being able to stomach a hamburger for a few days. What is fascinating though, is the criticism that the author brings to our praised notion of “eat more healthy whole grains”. By claiming that the obesity problem in America is a result of this fake “wheat” that we are eating, Dr. Davis’ assertion mocks the advice of the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Wheat Belly may not be the Bible as moms are praising it to be, but it certainly adds another lens with which to look at the death of the agrarian lifestyle and obesity in America.


Today is an exciting day because I finally have some concrete results to share! These revelations have been hiding among large spreadsheets of MATLAB output matrices for the past couple of weeks, but only after plotting up over 100 graphs of various model parameters (channel slope, width/depth ratio, vertical erosion rate, minimum and maximum erodibility, and others) were Dr. Hancock and I able to understand why the graphs of times to equilibrium I posted last time differed so significantly between weathering and non-weathering model runs.

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Are We Done Here?

After she heard about my project, a representative of the German Red Cross had reached out to me offering any advice and support she could give. The German Red Cross has been a valuable presence in aiding disaster relief in the Philippines and they had recently begun exploring the use of mapping and crowd-sourcing technologies.  During our meeting, I asked her about the current state of disaster relief operations in both her organization as well as others like the UN OCHA. She forwarded that there were many lapses in the current framework that could be well complemented by my proposed system. No one had really leveraged crowd-sourcing technology in the expansive way I was hoping for. She mentioned there was a need to  further push the integrative nature of the project and ensure that it could also enable and mobilize the relavant parties when needed. This meant that the information exchange between the government and rescue operators shouldn’t just be a capability but an established and reliable connection. If the information could not give these parties the information to mobilize, it would be utterly useless and filed neatly under all the other failed attempts to improve the status quo. I asked her if she felt that I needed to reform my project in any way given her experience working with disaster relief and her understanding of the capabilities and difficulties of the environment. She surprised me when she said there wasn’t anything she would change.  Adding to the surprise, at the end of the meeting, she asked me if I could speak about crowd-sourcing technologies at a conference. I didn’t (and still don’t) consider myself an expert in this field, and therefore was shocked that she considered me knowledgeable enough to give a presentation.

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