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This post has been updated. It was originally published on January 15, 2023.

What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you’ll have an even weirder answer if you listen to PopSci’s hit podcast. The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week hits Apple, Anchor, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts every Wednesday morning. It’s your new favorite source for the strangest science-adjacent facts, figures, and Wikipedia spirals the editors of Popular Science can muster. If you like the stories in this post, we guarantee you’ll love the show.

FACT: The chainsaw was originally developed to aid in difficult childbirths

By Claire Maldarelli

When you picture a chainsaw, the typical uses that come to mind usually have to do with wood (and, you know, chopping it). But why were chainsaws invented, really? It might surprise you that the device’s origin lands about as far away from a lumber yard as you can get: The creators of the chainsaw were two Scottish surgeons named John Aitken and James Jeffray. And they developed their gnarly and dangerous device to help them do their jobs—cutting human bone and flesh.

Even under the best possible circumstances, giving birth is not what most would call a pleasant experience. But in the 18th century, prior to the development of anesthesia and other modern surgical tools, delivery could turn incredibly dangerous with little warning. When babies came out feet-first or their bodies were otherwise trapped in the birth canal, doctors would have to widen the pelvic area by cutting into the cartilage and bone. Aitken and Jeffray found that a sharp knife just didn’t do the trick in a timely fashion, so, somewhat shockingly, they created a chainsaw as a more precise and humane option.

The resulting procedure was known as a symphysiotomy, and thankfully it is no longer in use today. What’s left is the chainsaw, which is now kept well away from surgical wards. Thank goodness.

FACT: You owe your favorite fitness tracker to a man who diligently weighed his own poop

By Rachel Feltman

The next time you finish a workout and glance down at your Apple Watch for instant gratification, thank 16th-century Italian physician Santorio Santorio. He may not have pioneered the practice of counting steps, but he did something even more important to our understanding of self-quantification: He sat down. A lot. For a long time. For the better part of 30 years, in fact.

Santorio dedicated his career to improving our ability to measure important data points, especially as they pertained to health. In a world of physicians who thought you only needed to balance your humors in order to be well, Santorio wanted to know exactly how much phlegm was going into the equation. To that end, he built himself a special balancing chair designed to keep tabs on his weight at all hours.

By weighing himself at multiple points throughout the day—just after waking up; while sitting around doing nothing; before, during, and after eating; after having sex; before and after urinating or defecating—Santorio developed medicine’s first knowledge of the basal metabolic rate. Today we know that most of the calories we need to eat to survive go straight to fueling our organs. Barring seriously strenuous exercise, the calories we burn by moving around are relatively few.

Santorio didn’t have a perfect understanding of this, but his endless weigh-ins did help him land on the basic concept. Why? Because he needed an explanation for his missing poop. Listen to this week’s episode to find out more.

FACT: Some animals seem to have complete control over when they get pregnant

By Sara Chodosh

Pregnancy in general is a whirlwind of experiences in which your body starts doing things it’s never done before—and it can feel a little out of control. But it turns out a lot of animals have a surprising amount of control over their pregnancy. And that starts with choosing when to get preggers in the first place.

I talk a lot in the podcast about why an animal would want to plan when to give birth, but one thing that didn’t make it into the episode is the fact that a number of species can get inseminated while still suckling their babies, then get pregnant after those babies are weaned. A lot of human mothers think that they experience the same thing—that as long as they’re breastfeeding, they can’t conceive again. But that’s a total myth. It’s true that breastfeeding can affect your fertility, and so some women can have unprotected sex without much risk of pregnancy. But it’s also true that plenty of women are absolutely able to get pregnant even while regularly nursing—and that every year, tons of people end up having their second kid earlier than planned because they didn’t realize that fact. So, consider this your fair warning, and check out this week’s episode to hear about the animals who have a way better handle on the whole conception thing than humans do. For more stories about weird animal baby-making, listen to our previous episode about virgin births (yes, they’re a thing).

If you like The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week, please subscribe, rate, and review us on Apple Podcasts. You can also join in the weirdness in our Facebook group and bedeck yourself in Weirdo merchandise from our Threadless shop.

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These Machines Were Supposed To Help Win The War In Afghanistan. What Happened?

This week the world has witnessed the stunning, historic takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban forces, marking a dramatic end chapter to roughly two decades of American-led war. 

As recently as May, the United States maintained a network of bases across the country, supporting the government it had backed for nearly 20 years in an ongoing war. This week, the number of troops deployed by the United States has quadrupled from the 2,500 it was in May. Meanwhile, the area of US control has shrunk to just Hamid Karzai International Airport, where the United States is overseeing evacuations of foreigners and vulnerable populations out of Afghanistan. 

The flights out have seen heroic feats, like the C-17 transport that carried out hundreds of people. There have also been fresh tragedies, with Afghan witnesses reporting between three and four people falling from the outside of a plane, before crashing onto houses near the airport. Human remains were also found inside the wheel well of a C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, according to an Air Force spokesperson. 

The airport, located in the country’s largest city and capital, is named for the long-serving former president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a government that existed in July and may not anymore. The Taliban, a group that once ruled most of the country and waged a decades-long insurgency to reclaim it, proclaimed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan today.

The shocking events are the latest chapter in a war that saw the direct arrival of American troops in October, 2001, when the United States arrived leading a multinational invasion against the Taliban. This invasion followed the 9/11 terror attack by al Qaeda on the United States, which was planned and coordinated from training camps inside Afghanistan. 

[Related: The Taliban have seized crucial US military equipment, including data on Afghans]

But for Afghans, their long years of war began far before that, with a palace coup in 1979, which then led to a decade-long occupation by the Soviet Union, who fought that entire time against a coalition of armed insurgents in Afghanistan. After the USSR left in 1989, regional warlords fought and factions coalesced, with the Taliban consolidating their control over most but not all of the country by 1996.

Over the nearly two decades of direct US involvement in this war, between the eras of Taliban rule, over 170,000 people were killed in the violence. These numbers include an estimated 66,000 Afghan national military and police, and estimated 51,000 Taliban and other insurgent fighters, and a minimum of 47,000 Afghan civilians. (A higher estimate, by the Costs of War project at Brown University, places the total dead in fighting that spanned Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan at 241,000 people, with at least 71,000 of those civilians.)

Observers are still figuring out what led to the rapid collapse of the Afghan National Defense Forces, which came just over a month after the United States had vacated the massive Bagram Air Base it used to headquarters much of the war effort. It is a rout with both immediate and likely much deeper seeded origins. The consequences of that abrupt end, from feared reprisals to the diminished futures under a deeply different vision of government, have led to a rapid exodus from the country, especially among Afghans who worked with the United States. 

Popular Science’s ‘War Report,’ revisited

In February 2002, PopSci took a look at the machinery of the US war in Afghanistan. Titled “War Report,” it was written as “troops were on the ground and phase 1 of the war was ending.”

As the likely last phase of the US role in the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, it is time to revisit those weapons. The story of the war is much more than the machines used in fighting it—wars are prosecuted by people, of course—but the machines matter because they are a broader part of that process. Looking at how the weapons were used and heralded on their first use in the war in 2001 offers some insight into what changed, and what didn’t, in the intervening decades of combat.

Five aircraft were featured prominently in “War Report” for their role in the dawn of the war. Many of them are still flying today, at the sunset of the war.

A B-52 is refueled over Afghanistan in 2023. Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott / US Air National Guard

The B-52

The Air Force’s longest-serving bombers were already old by the start of the October 2001 invasion, and are now practically ancient. As War Report acknowledged, “the newest of the B-52s used in Afghanistan was built in 1962, long before many U.S. airmen were even born.”

The AC-130

Also flying above the skies of Afghanistan this August were AC-130 gunships, which first flew into action against the Taliban in 2001. Operating almost like an 18th-century ocean-going ship, the AC-130U “Spooky” gunships that flew in 2001 had three big guns sticking out of the left side of the craft, which it would fire while circling people, buildings, or vehicles below. These weapons include a gatling gun for use against light vehicles (like trucks), an anti-aircraft cannon that can be fired at longer range than the gatling and with somewhat more accuracy, and a howitzer artillery piece, used to destroy buildings. 

The Air Force formally retired the AC-130U gunships in 2023, replaced by the similar AC-130J “Ghostrider.” The Ghostrider features a similar array of guns, and adds to that package several bombs and missiles, including the Hellfire missile common on armed drones. 

A MQ-1B Predator in Afghanistan in 2024. Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys / US Air Force

The Predator

Alongside the B-52s and AC-130 gunships that attacked Taliban forces this summer were MQ-9 Reaper drones, the direct descendant of the more-famous Predator drone. (The lineage is so direct that Reapers flown by Customs and Border Patrol are known as Predator-Bs.) In 2001, Predators flew above Afghanistan.

Predators had seen war before, flying above Bosnia and Kosovo and other countries in the Balkans in the 1990s. In fact, Predator drones based in Uzbekistan even flew over Afghanistan in the summer and fall of 2000. These Predators were operated by both the Air Force and the CIA, and were unarmed surveillance planes, useful for directing other aircraft to a target but incapable of launching attacks with weapons of their own.

Arming Predators with anti-tank hellfire missiles, which were lightweight and fast and could kill clusters of people as well as destroy vehicles, fundamentally changed the role of drones in the war. By February 2002, remote pilots using Predator drones had successfully launched fatal attacks against people linked to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, a role Predators would pursue there and above countries like Yemen and Somalia for years, until all Air Force Predators were retired in March 2023, with their job replaced by Reapers. (The Gnat, an even earlier drone that led to the Predator, was also flown over Afghanistan in 2001).

An RQ-4 Global Hawk in an undisclosed location in 2010. Staff Sgt. Eric Harris / US Air Force

The Global Hawk

The Global Hawk is as massive as drones go, and capable of flying for over 30 hours continuously. (As a remotely piloted vehicle, that means switching remote pilots multiple times while the Global Hawk is airborne.) The cameras on the Global Hawk allow it to scan vast sections of terrain, letting one vehicle keep watch over entire battlefields.

Global Hawks are still in use today; one older model was famously shot down over the Strait of Hormuz near Iran in 2023. The Air Force is actively trying to retire more of its older models in less dramatic ways, though Congress has prevented that effort out of a concern that the absence of surveillance by these drones would impede US missions. Beyond cameras, the Global Hawk drones use high-resolution radar to track movements below.

The E-8C Joint STARS

Looking like a business jet with a long bulge underneath the fuselage, the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JointSTARS) is a modified Boeing 707 jet. The E-8C saw action in the 1991 invasion of Iraq. Its flight crew of four keep the plane airborne, while a “mission crew” of people across the Air Force and Army operate the sensors inside. The long radar built into the belly of the craft is the chief tool of the plane, and it can look for vehicles moving on the ground up to 150 miles away. 

“The radar system acts much like a VCR in the hands of one of the 18 operators onboard the plane,” said Popular Science in a phrase that perfectly dates the story to 2002, “who can fast-forward through images recorded during the previous 6 hours or run them backward to show, for example, where a column of vehicles originated.”

Radar is built to track movement, so if a vehicle stops moving, the human crewing the radar can record the stop for when movement starts again. Once the E-8Cs arrived over Afghanistan in 2001, they stayed in the broader Middle East for 18 years, moving on to other theaters and other missions in 2023. The Air Force plans maintenance and upgrades to keep the fleet flying into the 2030s.

How To Help Readers Grapple With Challenging Texts

Instead of matching students to texts they can breeze through, literacy guru Tim Shanahan says that students should be engaging with challenging texts that push them out of their comfort zones.

One philosophy of reading, often referred to as leveled reading, assumes that the best way to teach students is to match them to books they can already understand and get through easily, and slowly build up their capacity from there. 

Professor and literacy expert Tim Shanahan taught reading like this, too, when he was a young primary school teacher. Mostly, he did so because that’s how reading had traditionally been taught: “It is hard to change ancient traditions on the basis of research or anything else,” he reflected more recently. “It’s even hard to envision how instruction could be different.” 

But Shanahan says that if we are serious about higher reading achievement, we need an evidence-based shift in mindset—encouraging and helping students to read, struggle, and ultimately comprehend more complex texts. 

“Grade level texts or higher are the best choice for most students,” Shanahan wrote in 2023. “Those are often the texts that students can’t already read well. The purpose of a reading lesson then is to guide students to make sense of a text that they cannot succeed with on their own and to develop the abilities to deal with such texts.” 

Shanahan notes that many teachers shy away from this approach, fearing that challenging students might undermine their motivation to read altogether. But he argues that students will become motivated as they see themselves making progress on more and more challenging texts, growing and strengthening their muscles as readers in the process. “When kids are challenged and their learning is obvious, you won’t need to worry about discouragement or a lack of motivation,” he says. 

In previous posts, we’ve argued for a balanced reading diet: Students should regularly be exposed to challenging texts, but have the latitude to read at or even below grade level periodically. In the end, the need to push students towards texts that are just beyond their reach is strongly supported by research on literacy—and learning more broadly. Encouraging students to read for pleasure makes sense, as well, to send the signal that reading is not always utilitarian, and not always difficult.

In a recent webinar covered by EdWeek, Shanahan, who has spent much of his career touting the benefits of students consistently engaging with complex texts, highlighted three strategies teachers can use to do this effectively in their classrooms.

In a recent study, 3rd graders struggling with reading outscored their more proficient peers when working with teachers on texts two to four grade levels above their reading level. “When all assessments were considered, assisted readers reading texts two grade levels above their instructional levels showed the most robust gains in oral reading fluency and comprehension,” researchers noted. 

Advanced texts “provide students with an opportunity to learn—to learn the unknown words, to learn how to untangle the complex syntax, to learn to track the subtle connections across a text, and so on. If students can already read texts reasonably well, there isn’t much for them to learn from those texts,” Shanahan writes. 

To set the table for learners, teachers can scaffold comprehension, asking students to recall knowledge they might have about a text or topic by asking them to brainstorm, or to respond to prompts that tease out what they already know about ancient Rome, volcanism, or ecosystems, for example.

Alternately, teachers can design quick exploratory activities that allow kids to become familiar with a time period or new subject matter before they take on reading challenges.

Other instructional strategies Shanahan suggests on his blog include being forthright with students about the goal of the challenging texts you’re putting in front of them. “Explain to students what you’re up to when you intentionally place them in texts they cannot already easily read,” he writes. “They need to know what the goals are and how they can recognize if they are improving in their ability to handle these texts. Give the students some sense of self determination.” 

He also suggests giving students agency in selecting complex texts. For example, you might present them with two or three options of books or passages to choose from. To make complex texts easier to parse, Shananan recommends teachers divide a text into smaller bits for students to work through and “take on parts of it rather than trying to digest it all in one bite.” 

Although not possessing the requisite academic vocabulary is a common problem for struggling readers, Shanahan’s webinar promotes an approach that is equal parts tactics and strategy: Teachers and students tackle a limited set of new vocabulary terms, but spend more time learning useful strategies to help them recognize gaps in comprehension and utilize strategies to decode new words that aid in comprehension. 

Rather than pre-teaching an extensive vocabulary list for a complex text, then, Shanahan recommends teaching students how to recognize and be honest with themselves about when they don’t know the meaning of a word and lean on strategies to infer its meaning enough to continue reading, or look them up in the dictionary if the texts don’t provide enough context clues. 

“An important part of vocabulary learning is developing an ability to use context to determine meanings of unknown words,” Shanahan writes in his blog. “Good readers can both figure the meanings of words they’ve never encountered previously, and they can decide which of a word’s meanings is the relevant one in a given context.” 

Encouraging students to re-read a passage or section of a text to get a better understanding of words they don’t have a grasp of is also useful, Shanahan notes, and comes with its own benefits according to research he cites—such as improved reading fluency, improved comprehension and improved literary appreciation.

Most importantly, he writes, students need to be taught how to persist when encountering headwinds in the form of unfamiliar words and, more broadly, to embrace the messy process of trying to make sense of something difficult to do. 

Opinion: These Were The 10 Game

There were so many announcements during the WWDC keynote yesterday that even people who follow Apple for a living (and expected most of the details) were overwhelmed. New versions of iOS, OS X, and watchOS were only three of the biggies, alongside the official debut of Apple Music and a lot of small but interesting new details.

1. iPad Split-Screen Modes. If I had to pick just one new feature announcement as the biggest game-change at WWDC, it’s what Apple is calling Multitasking — a collection of three different ways to split an iPad’s screen into segments.

Slide Over: A 1/3-screen pane that gives you an elongated iPhone-like view of one app while the other continues to occupy the full screen behind it.

Picture in Picture: Continue to watch a video or make a FaceTime video call while you’re using another app, thanks to a movable, resizable window that can be placed anywhere on the screen.

Split View: Expand the Slide Over pane such that it takes over 1/3 or 1/2 of the screen, leaving the other 2/3 or 1/2 free for the formerly full-screen app. This is only supported on the iPad Air 2, for now.

2. Proactive Assistant. I don’t know any iOS user who wasn’t (at least quietly) jealous of Google Now’s ability to help Android users plan their days — using information culled from emails and other data, evoking privacy concerns. By bulking up Spotlight search results with location data and information on your routine use of your device, Apple is trying to offer more and better information automatically without crossing into “creepy” territory. From my perspective, Proactive is a lot more limited than Google Now, but anything that makes iOS more useful without having to dig through apps is a plus. Ditto on seeing much-needed search improvements to Spotlight on the Mac.

3. watchOS 2 SDK: A More Capable Apple Watch. Partially because the Apple Watch segment of the WWDC keynote seemed like a speedreading exercise, none of the user-facing features Apple added in watchOS 2 really stood out as a game-changer. I’d personally be surprised if any of them convinced a hold-out to get off the fence. But third-party app support is huge, as it opens the door for the Watch to become useful across a million niches that will eventually attract millions of customers.

4. Performance and Battery Boosts. Calling one hour of extra iPhone run time or 1.4x-4x Mac app improvements a “game-changer” might seem like a stretch, but Apple’s basically turning the key reasons people historically upgraded their hardware — speed and better battery life — into software improvements. For free. Who wouldn’t want a peppier, longer-lasting iPhone, or an iPad that can actually handle multitasking without killing its battery?

5. News. Missing from the early iOS 9 beta, the new News app has the potential to be a very big deal. There’s no question that Apple seriously messed up with Newsstand, crippling the feature within iOS 7 and 8, while ignoring publisher cries to properly support them. And cynical people may look at News as little more than an Apple effort to clone Flipboard, potentially monetizing third-party content in exchange for a nicer UI to navigate that content. But the UI is indeed gorgeous, and a lot of publishers will be willing to forget about Newsstand to give it a shot. If Apple pulls News off correctly, it could easily become a daily must-use alternative to RSS readers, Flipboard, and similar apps.

6. Notes. Notes doesn’t get a lot of attention, and it has barely been updated over the years, but it’s one of the very few apps I keep outside of a folder on my main Home screen for immediate access. Apple has seriously bulked it up in iOS 9, adding basic drawing and measurement tools, formatting and checklist tools, the ability to add multimedia content, and a 100% iCloud-based sync engine. Notes just went from “useful” to “crazy useful.”

7. Transit Maps. Again, it might seem like a stretch to call the addition of something arguably small — mass transit directions — a “game-changer,” but this was actually a huge omission from Apple Maps on the day it launched, and has limited its utility for huge numbers of people in major cities. The more cities Apple adds to Maps’ Transit feature, the more widely used the app is likely to become as an everyday point-to-point mapping solution.

8. Apple Music. A lot of people use Spotify and similar music subscription services, enough to have actually made a dent in music sales for both the industry and iTunes Store. I’m not going to tell you that I would sign up for Apple Music myself, or that I found the overall pitch to be compelling, but I haven’t signed up for any competing service either, and wouldn’t for $10 per month. Other people obviously feel otherwise, and having the feature integrated into iOS 9’s Music app, the iTunes Store, and the Apple TV is going to be a very big deal for them.

9. Apple’s New Keyboard Solutions, Including QuickType. This is a big deal that looks like a small deal, but fixing the messed up iOS 7/8 shift key by borrowing the “shift the entire keyboard” feature is a welcome change, and some of the briefly-mentioned iPad keyboard tweaks — support for accessory keyboard shortcuts and swipe-through-the-keyboard gestures — again hint at what Apple’s been planning for a more powerful iPad Pro. The changes mightn’t seem huge on the surface, but for a more Mac-like iPad, they have a lot of potential.

10. Safari Quality-Of-Life Improvements. From pinned tabs — being able to keep a Facebook tab perpetually active in the corner — to mute controls for increasingly obnoxious interrupting audio, to AirPlay-to-Apple TV video streaming directly from a Safari tab, Apple is bringing a ton of additional multitasking-like power to Safari. These little tweaks will make the overall browsing experience a lot better for people, and extend the power of web pages into your HDTV in a very Chromecast-like way.

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Apple Watch And Iphone Health Accessories To Help With New Year’s Resolutions

The “new year, new you” adage might be a cliche at this point, but for better or worse, it’s many people’s mindset when we start a new year. We’ve already rounded up some of the best applications to help you stick to your new year’s resolutions, but what about hardware?

New technology certainly isn’t required to help you achieve your 2023 goals and resolutions, but it can absolutely help. These suggestions add that new-technology motivation factor and can help you track new metrics to stay on top of your health throughout the year. That’s a big benefit whether you’re looking to improve certain things, maintain progress you’ve already made, or a combination of both.

Apple Watch

First and foremost, Apple Watch can play a major role in helping you stay motivated throughout the year. The focus of Apple Watch is the Activity Ring system: Set a goal for calories burned in a day, exercise for 30 minutes per day, and move around for at least one minute in 12 different hours of the day.

Now, you don’t have to buy the latest and greatest Apple Watch to track your fitness. While Apple Watch Series 7 is the best Apple has to offer, you can buy a previous generation model to save some cash while still getting most of the features. For instance, you can get an Apple Watch Series 6 at around $300 with support for an always-on display, fitness tracking, and more.

If you really want to take things to the next level, you can get an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity. This will allow you leave your iPhone behind on outdoor walks and runs but remain connected in case of an emergency. It’s pricier, but if you plan on a lot of running and walking in the new year, it might be the right choice for you.

Oura Ring

If you already have an Apple Watch or the idea of wearing a watch every day doesn’t appeal to you, another option on the market is the Oura Ring. The Oura Ring was just updated to Generation 3 with a host of new features, including 24/7 heart rate monitoring, improved health insights, and detailed sleep data.

I’ve been wearing an Oura Ring Generation 3 in addition to my Apple Watch for the past month, and I’m very impressed with the data it provides. In particular, I like the “Readiness” score that it gives you every day. This score is based on factors like your sleep and previous day’s activity.

The Apple Watch currently doesn’t factor in things like rest days, so the Oura Ring is a great addition for helping you get a more wholistic look at your fitness and health progress.

Beats Fit Pro or AirPods

To truly embrace the Apple Watch-only lifestyle, you’ll need a pair of Bluetooth headphones. They’ll allow you to connect directly to your Apple Watch and play music, podcasts, and audiobooks while on the go, without a nearby iPhone.

Whenever I complete an outdoor run or walk, I make sure to bring my AirPods Pro. I don’t use the Active Noise Cancellation features while exercising because I like to be aware of my surroundings, but Transparency mode allows me to hear what’s going on around me. AirPods Pro are especially tempting when you can find them on sale for under $200.

Another new option on the market are the Beats Fit Pro, which I reviewed in depth last fall. The Beats Fit Pro feature a secure in-ear design with an ear hook, as well as support for Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and more.

Finally, there are AirPods 3, which are Apple’s newest generation of truly wireless earbuds. AirPods 3 feature a more compact design than their predecessor, a MagSafe Charging Case, up to six hours of listening time per charge, spatial audio support, and more.

Polar Verity Sense heart rate sensor

To go with your Apple Watch, a dedicated optical heart rate sensor is a nice addition. Apple Watch has a built-in heart rate sensor, but there are a few benefits of going with a standalone sensor.

My personal favorite option is the POLAR Verity Sense optical heart rate sensor, which you can pick up on Amazon. It lasts for up to 20 hours on a single charge, which means you can use it for multiple workouts without worrying about battery life. It connects directly to your Apple Watch via Bluetooth, and you simply strap it to your arm before a workout.

So why do you need a standalone heart rate monitor when Apple Watch has one built in? The biggest benefit is that it removes the burden of tracking heart rate from Apple Watch, which has a major impact on battery life. If you plan on stretching Apple Watch to its limits with long outdoor runs and bike rides, an external heart rate monitor will dramatically extend your Apple Watch battery life, especially if you’re using cellular connectivity at the same time.

There are other options to extend Apple Watch battery life during workouts, such as disabling cellular or enabling Workout Power Saving Mode. But, if you want to maximize battery life without losing features, this is a great way to do just that.

Smart scale

Regardless of your goals for 2023, a smart scale is a great purchase. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, bulk, or just get a better feel for your overall health, a smart scale makes it much easier to track your weight.

Way back in 2023, I invested in the Withings Body Smart Scale, which integrates with the Health app on your iPhone. It connects to your WiFi network and syncs to your iPhone every time you weigh in. This makes the weigh-in process as frictionless as possible and ensures that you’re logging your exact weight every time. The Withings Body scale supports up to 8 different profiles, so everyone in your household can track their weight with the same scale.

Four years later, I’m still using the Withings Body Smart Scale every day, and it reliably syncs to my iPhone without any issues.

If you want to take things to the next level, the Withings Body+ is a pricier option that tracks some additional metrics. There’s support for weight, body fat, water percentage, and muscle and bone mass.

Smart blood pressure monitor

Last but not least is the Withings BPM Connect, which is a Bluetooth- and WiFi-enabled smart blood pressure monitor. As I’ve written about before, high blood pressure runs in my family, and I’ve made it my goal to be more aware of my own blood pressure and the lifestyle choices I make that affect it.

I purchased the Withings BPM Connect a few years ago, and it makes it incredibly simple to track my blood pressure on a regular basis. In addition to the small LED screen on the monitor itself, all of your results sync directly to your iPhone in the Withings Health Mate app, as well as in Apple’s Health app. Much like with tracking weight, these data make it easy to view trends overtime, improvements, and more.

Wrap up

Regardless of your goals this year, these technology picks can help you be more aware of your health and overall fitness level. Being more attuned to things like your blood pressure can help you make small changes in your day-to-day life and track the effects of those changes with ease. New technology isn’t a necessity for new year’s resolutions, but it can certainly help.

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Why Does Anxiety Spikes With Your Period?

However, if you experience severe depression and anxiety during the period, it could be due to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) or Premenstrual Exacerbation (PME). If you are already feeling anxious or depressed, these conditions can further exacerbate your symptoms.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

While the exact cause of premenstrual symptoms is still not clearly understood, most experts believe the symptoms associated with PMS arrived due to the fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone levels in the body.

Your body increases hormone production to prepare you for pregnancy after ovulation. When the eggs are not implanted, your body drops these hormone levels, resulting in your period. 

Serotonin also affects your appetite, mood, and sleep cycle. Low serotonin levels can cause irritation, sadness, cravings for food, and sleep disruption.

However, if your anxiety or depression levels are way too higher, it could be a sign of PMDD or PME, which we have discussed below.

Symptoms of PMS

The symptoms of PMS are usually mild or moderately uncomfortable that don’t impact your daily life.

If you have PMS, you only notice some of the symptoms mentioned below (rarely all).

Psychological Symptoms

Anxiety, restlessness

Unnecessary anger and irritation

Increased food cravings

Fatigue and sleep deprivation

Low sex drive

Sudden emotional outbursts or uncontrollable crying

Difficulty in focusing on or remembering things

Physical Symptoms

Stomach cramps or bloating

Sore or tender breasts

Acne breakouts

Constipation or diarrhea

Headache, back, and muscle aches

Sensitivity to sound or light


Therapy and Treatment for PMS

Drink plenty of fluids, including herbal teas, chamomile tea, and cranberry juice, to soothe your stomach

Eat healthy food, including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains

Eat asparagus, pineapple, peaches, and cucumber to reduce bloating

Cut back on sugar, salt, alcohol, and caffeine

Take vitamin D supplements or exposure your body to sunlight for 10-30 minutes

Take supplements like folic acid, calcium, vitamin B-6, and magnesium to reduce muscle cramps and elevate mood

Sleep 7 to 9 hours every night


For relieving pain, you can take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin

For bloating and soreness in breasts, take diuretics


Note − If you are facing severe mood symptoms, try to take cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or other approaches after talking to your physician.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

About 5 percent of women experience PMDD during their menstrual cycle. The symptoms associated with PMDD are similar to PMS, but it’s severe.

The exact cause of PMDD is unknown, but it is considered an abnormal reaction to regular hormonal changes during a menstrual cycle. In PMDD, your serotonin levels drop significantly, causing serotonin deficiency and resulting in extreme panic attacks, anxiety, lack of interest in anything, depression, etc.

While it can happen to anyone, women with a family history of PMS, PMDD, depression, postpartum depression, and mood disorders are more prone to get PMDD.

People with PMDD will experience severe anxiety, depression, and irritability 7-15 days before the period.

The symptoms go back within 3-4 days once your period starts. While PMS can be managed with in-home or natural therapy, you will need medications for PMDD.

Symptoms of PMDD Psychological Symptoms

Feeling extreme irritability, anger, or rage

Experiencing too much sadness, despair, or hopelessness

High anxiety levels

Binge eating or increased hunger pangs

Too weak to get out of the bed

Frequent crying, mood swings, and emotional outbursts

Getting difficulty falling asleep, close to insomnia

Having self-harm or suicidal thoughts in extreme cases

Physical Symptoms

Getting Stomach and muscle cramps

Getting frequent migraine or throbbing headaches

Breasts are too tender or sore to touch

Pain in joints and muscles

Treatment for PMDD

Treatment for PMDD often includes lifestyle changes such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and healthy nutrition. Additionally, certain medications may be utilized to treat the condition including antidepressants, birth control pills, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Some patients have also reported great benefit from vitamin B6 supplementation. In more serious cases, individual psychotherapy or group sessions may also be prescribed in order to assist with stress management. It is important to note that no single treatment works for all women so it is wise to discuss options with your doctor in order to determine a personalized treatment plan.

Premenstrual Exacerbation (PME)

It is characterized by intensified anxiety and depression during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Diagnosis of PME is challenging and often gets confused with PMDD due to their similar characteristics. Although PME is similar to PMDD, it concentrates more on psychological symptoms. It happens to people with preexisting depression and anxiety disorders. However, PMDD can occur in someone with no history of psychological disorders but may be related to people with a history of these disorders.

PME can also be triggered in people with preexisting conditions like migraine, seizures, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and substance abuse disorder.

The difference is that people with PME experience these symptoms all month long, but the symptoms intensify before the period.

Treatment for PME

PME is a severe issue that needs to be accurately diagnosed by a certified doctor. The treatment below is only for reference purposes and should only be taken with a professional consultation.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)

SSRIs are antidepressants to treat PME and PMDD that helps to boost positive emotions, which get massively deteriorated due to hormone fluctuations. Although antidepressants like SSRIs can relieve moderate to severe depression, they could negatively affect some patients. So, you should always consult your physician before taking them.

Treatment for Depressive Disorders

Depression can be treated with Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and ALLO inhibition. These treatments can help treat PME-related depression by suppressing ovulation.

This is where an accurate diagnosis of PMDD and PME is required.

Women with PMDD or PMS can safely take oral contraceptives, but it could be dangerous for PME patients as it can aggravate negative thoughts such as self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Meanwhile, if you don’t have PME, you will miss effective treatment.


Scientists and research institutions should make more effort to diagnose PME. This is crucial because many people seeking treatment for PMS or PMDD have PME or other undiagnosed psychiatric disorders. Most importantly, people should also come forward and should not try to dismiss the diagnosis. Many patients show resistance to the idea of having preexisting psychiatric conditions. As a result, their diagnosis couldn’t become official. It’s time to stop treating mental health as a taboo and more like any other disease, as it would help many people still suffering silently.

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