I was excited to find this study from Baylor College in Houston that suggests chewing gum might improve people’s performance on standardized tests.
YES. I love it when science justifies my bad habits/middle school insurrections.
Unfortunately the effect isn’t that big- like 3 percent. But they did use sugar-free gum, so at least we know it wasn’t just your basic sugar-rush.
There is a surprisingly large amount of data out there on the cognitive benefits of chewing gum, and it seems that nobody’s managed to nail down what exactly is going on. Some suggest that chewing reduces stress, much as exercise does, while others think it’s just oral-fixation and therefore quasi-arousing. Still others think that it could he the presence of flavor, which adds another “dimension to experience,” or perhaps the rhythmic aspect of chewing.
For all the gorey details of mastication research , check this out.
Chewing gum certainly seems like it helps me think better. And I’m pretty sure the baseball players of the world would agree. But honestly, it could just be the placebo effect screwing with us again…
Regardless, all those elementary and middle school kids whose schools have out-lawed gum should seize upon this. Start a petition! Stage a chew-in!
Check out Wired’s typically hilarious list of the 10 worst evolutionary designs.
In addition to the obligatory sex references, it describes new-born kangaroos as “squisy jellybeans.” Pretty apt I think, judging by this picture.
A new study released this week shows that women are getting more attractive over evolutionary time. However, men are not.
This study, by a team of scientists in Helsinki, builds on previous research showing that attractive couples are more likely to produce daughters. Evolutionary psychologist Kanazawa says:“Physical attractiveness is a highly heritable trait, which disproportionately increases the reproductive success of daughters much more than that of sons. If more attractive parents have more daughters and if physical attractiveness is heritable, it logically follows that women over many generations gradually become more physically attractive on average than men.”
The article i am referencing, from Times Online, then goes on to offers some strange consolation to women who might feel slighted by evolution’s superficial considerations:
“Women may take consolation in the finding that men are subject to other types of evolutionary pressure.Gayle Brewer, a psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “For women, looks are much less important in a man than his ability to look after her when she is pregnant and nursing, periods when women are vulnerable to predators. Historically this has meant rich men tend to have more wives and many children. So the pressure is on men to be successful.”
It seems he is trying to comfort women by telling them men are getting smarter and more successful while they are only getting prettier. But not to worry, he’s totally wrong.
Just consider this.
And that’s not just some theory or self-report-based psych study. That’s life.
Girls v Boys aside-
This study also reminds me how peeved I am that Francis Collins was elected the new head of the NIH. He doesn’t believe that humans are evolving….
And if that doesn’t have you a bit worried, check out the man’s website. Yes. Those are Jesus fish.
Swearing increases pain tolerance, according to a recent study published in NeuroReport.
(For details, check out this SciAm article.)
The researchers used a standard pain tolerance measure– timing how long a person can hold their hand in a bucket of freezing water– and compared a group of people using cuss words with a group that could only use neutral words, like “table” or “blue.”
The fowl-mouths were able to keep their hands submerged for significantly longer, suggesting that swearing provides pain relief.
The study seems solid, but I still have some questions.
I wonder if there is any difference in pain-relief between people who swear constantly and those who only rarely hurl imprecations. Maybe people who swear all the freaking time are actually sabotaging their natural pain defenses. (After all, now we need for a new reason not to swear, because science is making it look like an excellent idea…like getting your endorphin fix from jogging instead of marijuana.)
Also, I wonder what exactly makes a swear word so great. Is it the social taboo? Is it the phonetics? I’d like to see a study where they compare a group of subjects using standard explitives to a group using the silly ones, like “dang” or “fustercluck.”
Personally, I feel like shouting the word “sassafras” would cool me off pretty quick. It’s got all those hisses and sharp a’s.
Geo-engineering is pretty scary business.
The idea is to deliberately change the climate in order to combat all the incidental damage we’ve inflicted on the planet over the past few centuries.
(This Atlantic article is a thorough and entertaining review of the major theories and issues, including at least two movie references and the words “commandeered” and “corset.”)
Some propositions from this colorful field of research are:
1. launching large mirrors into space to reflect sunlight away from the earth (guardian)
2. shooting millions of ceramic frisbees into the atmosphere out of mile-long guns for the same reason (atlantic)
3. pumping sulfur into the atmosphere, cooling the earth and turning the sky red, like in Bladerunner (atlantic)
This research is scary for two main reasons:
1. we would only be building a barricade– if any of the technology ever crashed, all of the CO2 we’d been deflecting would rush down upon us in one huge, catastrophic deluge. So if we’re ever going to do this, we need to learn to love that grainy, grimy atmosphere in bladerunner.
2. it’s cheap– through geo-engineering, a single individual, a “greenfinger” as Stanford professor David Vitor puts it, could transform the entire world–potentially halting CO2 buildup, but definitely destroying the climate as we know it.
So let’s jump on that carbon capture and algae fuel before it’s too late!
Have you heard of the sheep-albedo hypothesis?
I think it is hands down the silliest climate solution i have ever heard. It’s not that i don’t think it’d work– it probably would–but if you run with the logic of it, you’re gonna get yourself in trouble!
The hypothesis is based on very simple reasoning:
“most sheep are white, and therefore have a higher albedo than the land on which they typically graze” -from RealClimate
Albedo is the extent to which an object reflects sunlight. So the idea is that if there are more white sheep roaming around, more sunlight will be reflected away from the earth and there will be less CO2 in the atmosphere.
but what are you suggesting?
Not all sheep are white. From wikipedia, “Colors of domestic sheep range from pure white to dark chocolate brown and even spotted.”
What about all those sheep of color?
(do you see where I’m going with this?)
Maybe the government should subsidize sunscreen. Maybe hair-bleaching should come back in style. maybe we should all walk around with white umbrellas.
I mean, have you considered the possibility that the top of my head might be more environmentally-friendly than the top of yours?
I don’t mean to sneer at these kinds of solutions. I am totally down with Steven Chu’s white paint solution. It’s brilliantly simple, and way cheaper and more feasible than anything else out there.
I’m just saying.
Check out this awesome article from Seed Magazine.
The idea of insect colonies and brains having similar properties is not new (Godel Escher Bach…) but this research is the first effort to formally explore the parallel.
Social insect colonies have a singular, emergent “mind,” but their intelligence is distributed in little pieces across hundreds or thousands of individuals. This offers obvious evolutionary advantages because, should anything happen to an individual ant or honeybee, the integrity of the whole is preserved.
JUST LIKE VOLDEMORT’S SOUL.
Yes. Biomimicry is seen in the magical realm as well.
I suspect that whoever came up with the horcrux concept (likely Herpo the Foul, via wikipedia) was just some herbology nerd looking at ant hills. Kudos to him for recognizing the survival benefits of a distributed self.
But really, you should read the article.
We know that our internal representations of time and space are not rigid- we loose track of the hour and knock things over all the time- but this study coming out in the next Psychological Science journal offers new evidence that our perceptions of space and time are connected- and fooling one can fool the other.
They found that, when wearing glasses that shifted the world to the right, people overestimated how much time was passing, and when space moved left, time flew by.
BRAINS ARE SO COOL!
NASA plans to deorbit the International Space Station in 2016– which is a polite way of saying they’re going to let all 100 billion dollars of it burn up in the atmosphere and crash into the ocean.
This “decision” is largely a result of deep funding cuts, and has met with criticism from scientists and politicians alike.
However, according to Universe Today, the hype is unfounded- the claim more a plea for funding than a serious plan. NASA’s funding fluctuates wildly at the whim of government, and it is impossible to predict where it will be in 7 years.
Besides, NASA space station program manager Suffredini, who sparked all this in the first place, also says: “My opinion is it would be a travesty to de-orbit this thing.”
Sure, the ISS isn’t the most popular object in the sky these days (check out the eclipse!), but surely we don’t need to incinerate it!