Category: Science

Power and Pronouns

Have you heard that the frequent use of ‘I’ indicates narcissism?  It’s a common misconception rebuffed in recent studies conducted at the University of Texas at Austin by James W. Pennebaker.  Pennebaker found through behavioral experiments and Twitter analysis that the use of ‘I’ can denote duplicity and a sense of inferiority.  Those who used ‘we’ more often in the experiments tended to have the power in the relationships.

>> What Saying ‘I’ Says About You <<

 

– Sandra

A Storm is Brewing

I recently read Dan Brown’s Inferno which revolves around the theme of over-population and the threat it presents to future generations. This article  talks about another future threat–global warming and the increasing number of natural disasters. The facts presented in this article about the increase in natural disasters in the  future are not surprising but it is interesting to see how unprepared we are to face the impending doom.

I think the increase in natural disasters may just be nature’s way of posing its own solution to the aforementioned problem of overpopulation. Take a look at the article to see if you agree, and read Inferno to see how Dan Brown’s characters find a solution to this problem in the novel.

>>Climate Change Could Make Hurricanes Stronger—and More Frequent <<

-Monisha

7 Minutes to a New You

Have you been spending hours on the treadmill to slim down to that bangin’ beach bod?  Are you cutting back on dining out to pay for that gym with every kind of weight machine imaginable?  Good news: research shows that you can change your body with only a chair and a wall in 7 minutes per day.

Scientists at McMaster University in Ontario say the following high-intensity workout (comprised of a steady succession of jumping jacks, wall sits, push ups, crunches, chair steps, squats, tricep dips, planks, high knees, lunges, push up rotations and side planks) causes approximately the same change on a cellular level as hours of running or biking.  Really?!

>> The Scientific 7-Minute Workout <<

I am doing this.

– Sandra

Political Attraction

>> I Love Your Ballot, Baby: Members of Your Own Political Party Are More Beautiful <<

We’ve all been there – we’re hanging out in an otherwise innocuous group, and, suddenly, someone drops the politics card.  And then it all goes INSANE.  Tensions run high, thinly veiled insults are thrown like gang signs in south central LA, friendships are dissolved, etc.  Well, apparently political leanings don’t just influence your views; it can even make potential love interests more or less attractive!  A study conducted by a political economist at Stanford Business School showed that subjects’ attractions to online dating profiles were influenced – in this order – by the following: religion (50%), ethnicity (16.6%%), education (10.6%) and political partisanship (9.5%).  Basically, political affiliation has almost the same weight in determining someone’s appeal as his/her education levels.

– Sandra

Memory and Aging

So it’s common knowledge that the elderly, as they age, are plagued by deteriorating memory.  But this isn’t just because their bodies are failing.  It’s because they’re not able to get adequate amounts of restful sleep!

>> Sleep Deprivation May Be Behind Memory Loss in Elderly << 

Scientists at UC Berkeley conducted surveys where they tested subjects of all ages on memory retention and then tested them again after a night of sleep.  While most of the subjects performed on par with one another before sleeping, the elderly performed much more poorly afterwards.  So seniors aren’t actually worse at remembering; their brains are actually impaired by the inability to process new memories brought on by lack of restful sleep!

So for those of us who are not getting adequate amounts of deep sleep, we’re basically performing at the cognitive level of senior citizens.

– Sandra

The Lingering Effects of Adolescence

I feel like we’re constantly posting all these articles about (not) growing up, but here’s another one from New York Magazine that a friend sent to me.  It’s kind of a long piece, but it could actually be read as a series of mini articles.

>> Why You Never Truly Leave High School <<

I highly recommend reading through the whole thing, so I’ve included some highlights to whet your appetite:

Pg. 1 – The “reminiscence bump” suggests that memories made between the ages of 15 and 25 are the most vividly retained.

Pg. 2 – Your height, weight and attractiveness at the age of 16 are correlated with your adult success and earning power.

Pg. 3 – This part has two interesting proponents.  The first is that when they incited fear in adolescent mice, this fear was vividly recalled in the mice even after reaching adulthood.  The analogous experiment in adults and children did not have the same result; these mice forgot.  Second, high school and other teenage social environments are a fairly modern idea.  Just a couple of generations ago, many teens didn’t graduate from high school and instead worked alongside adults.  Maybe sequestering teens amongst themselves isn’t the most successful idea…

Pg. 5 – In studies where teens were asked who their best friends were, only 37% of them were reciprocated. When asked by high school students to categorize their classmates into groups (Popular, Smart, Jocks, Outcasts…) only 27% and 37% (in two separate iterations of the study) of the thought-to-be-Popular kids thought of themselves as Popular.

Pg. 6 – In 2000, 10th graders were asked to align themselves with a character from The Breakfast Club.  When evaluated 8 years later, these earlier characterizations proved predictive… EXCEPT for the ones who had identified themselves as princesses at 16.  These women – now 24 – had lower self-esteem than the women who had identified themselves as brainy.

What do you guys think?

– Sandra

Exercise (For) Your Brain!

Breaking news: exercise is good for your brain!  In a study published last April, researchers at Dartmouth tested how a month of exercise can affect a person’s memory.  Not so surprisingly, they found that those that exercised for at least 30 minutes daily showed much improved memory functions than those that had remained sedentary.

>> How Exercise Can Jog the Memory <<

Conversely, fatty foods were shown – in a separate study – to seriously detriment the brain’s cognitive functions over time.  In a lab study in rats, they found that a high-fat diet actually lead to an accelerated decline into dementia!  But they also found that exercise effectively counteracted these declines in cognitive function.  So if you think you’re eating too many cheeseburgers, hit the gym, and you should be good!

>> Can Exercise Protect the Brain From Fatty Foods? <<

But both studies found that the positive effects of exercise on the brain (increased neuron production, improved memory, etc) could only be sustained with continued exercise.  In as little as 3 weeks of inactivity, the brain can become indistinguishable from those that had never engaged in exercise to begin with.

>> Do the Brain Benefits of Exercise Last? <<

This is unrelated but still very interesting:  Babies start to recognize language from inside the womb!!

>> Babies Seem To Pick Up Language In Utero <<

– Sandra