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These nomadic people can see like dolphins and hold their breath twice as long as you.

When your entire culture lives on the water, you develop some cool abilities.

Every little kid has wanted to be a fish.

Or a dolphin. Or a shark. Or some sort of spectacular underwater creature, at least once.

We all did it. Glub-glub-glubbin' with our hand-gills underwater, only to end up disappointed when everything beneath the surface of the waves looked all blurry and weird and we were forced to come back up for air.


GIF from "Full House."

But in Southeast Asia, there are a few incredible kids who are closer than the rest of us to achieving these aquatic dreams.

The Moken people can be found spread around the archipelagos of the Andaman Sea off the western coast of Thailand. They're just one of several nomadic Southeast Asian cultures that are sometimes referred to by the problematic name of "sea gypsies." 

There are estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 Moken although no official records exist. Their people are born on the sea, spend most of their lives on handmade wooden boats called kabangs, and go back out to the sea to die.

Moken children even learn how to swim before they walk so that they can help the rest of the tribe by diving for shellfish and eels and other underwater creatures they can eat or sell to survive. But they're only able to do this because of a special advantage: They can see clearly underwater and hold their breath for twice as long as the rest of us.

GIF from BBC/YouTube.

But it's not some rare Atlantean mutation; it's just another way of controlling their muscles.

A 1999 study from the University of Lund in Sweden aimed to uncover the secret of this uncanny skill. Was it evolution? Mutation? Or maybe just a simple body hack that the rest of us can learn from?

The lead researcher, Anna Gislén, integrated herself into the Moken community to study their habits and measure their sight. She discovered that the Moken children were able to see twice as well underwater as European children by simply shrinking their pupils to increase the depth of field and muscularly changing the shape of their eye lenses. It's the same way dolphins are able to see underwater. The Moken children could also willfully decrease their heart rates, allowing them to hold their breath for twice as long.

GIF from BBC/YouTube.

That means that, in theory, anyone can learn how to control their bodies to achieve these amazing underwater adaptations.

In a later stage of her research, Gislén brought a group of European children with her to Thailand — and after 11 sessions over the course of a month, their underwater eyesight improved as well.

“It was different for each child, but at some point their vision would just suddenly improve,” Gislén told the BBC. “I asked them whether they were doing anything different and they said, ‘No, I can just see better now’.”

That being said, the European children were more prone to red eye and other irritations after prolonged exposure to the saltwater with their newly adapted eyes. This suggests that the Moken children might have some unique evolutionary bonus after all.

GIF from BBC/YouTube.

Even more surprising is that adults appear to lose this special ability.

"When we age, our lenses become less flexible, so it makes sense that the adults lose the ability to accommodate underwater," Gislén said. This could explain why the adults tend to spear fish from their boats while the adaptable children dive down to the sea floor.

But now the Moken culture is in danger of disappearing, and their amazing aquatic abilities could die out with them.

Ever since the deadly tsunami that ravaged the Indian Ocean in 2004, it's been increasingly difficult for the Moken to compete with depleted resources and the encroaching modernization of seaside resorts. While the Thai government has tried to help the people recover from this natural disaster with housing and job training, their altruism has come at the cost of tradition — and, by extension, their incredible underwater abilities.

"You want to help keep people safe and give them the best parts of modern culture, but in doing so they lose their own culture," Gislén said. "They just don’t spend as much time in the sea anymore, so I doubt that any of the children that grow up these days in the tribe have this extraordinary vision."

"Moken are supposed to travel, to be nomadic, to travel freely. So if we cannot travel freely, we are dead, culturally at least," said Hong, a Moken community leader, in an interview with The Guardian. "Moken children use mobile phones, study English and choose to be educated. We've abandoned our old traditions so much we risk losing them entirely."

Moken adults lament Thailand's new ID laws. GIF from Freedive UK/YouTube.

Here's a short video about the amazing Moken people. Because sometimes sharing an incredible story is the only way to keep a struggling culture alive.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.