PLOS Biology wants us to know that in a cost/benefit analysis, love comes out ahead: A new study published in PLOS Biology by Malika Ihle, Bart Kempenaers, and Wolfgang Forstmeier attempts to use a model animal in an elegant experiment designed to tease apart the reproductive consequences of mate choice. The authors took advantage of the fact that the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata, a native bird of Australia; Fig 1) shares many characteristics with humans, mating monogamously for life and sharing the burden of parental care. It was already known that the female finches choose mates in a way that is specific to the individual, and there is little consensus among females as to who is the cutest male. Using a population of 160 birds that had recently been isolated from the wild, the authors set up a speed-dating session, leaving groups of 20 females to choose freely between 20 males. Once the birds had […]
This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)
They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…
The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.
Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).
SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”
ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.
Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…
ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)
SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.
ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …
I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.
That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?
This far away. …
This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.
He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.
A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …
OK, I’m overstating things for dramatic effect… but another Science Daily report reveals even moderately picky eaters face health risks: According to the study, published August 3 in the journal Pediatrics, more than 20 percent of children ages 2 to 6 are selective eaters. Of them, nearly 18 percent were classified as moderately picky. The remaining children, about 3 percent, were classified as severely selective — so restrictive in their food intake that it limited their ability to eat with others. “The question for many parents and physicians is: when is picky eating truly a problem?” said lead author Nancy Zucker, Ph.D., director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders. “The children we’re talking about are not just misbehaving kids who refuse to eat their broccoli.” Children with both moderate and severe selective eating habits showed symptoms of anxiety and other mental conditions. The study also found that children with selective eating behaviors were nearly […]
Science Daily reveals that parents are (as we suspected) getting it all wrong – they think their 10-year-olds are happier – and their 15-year-olds are unhappier – than they really are: The study was conducted by Dr Belén López-Pérez, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Developmental and Social Psychology at Plymouth University, and Ellie Wilson, a recent graduate of the BSc (Hons) Psychology course. They questioned a total of 357 children and adolescents from two different schools in Spain, along with their parents, and their happiness was assessed using a range of self-reporting measures and ratings. The results showed that parents were inclined to score a child or adolescents’ happiness closely in line with their own emotional feelings, whereas in fact there were notable differences in the child’s own reports. In this regard, children and adolescents reported very similar levels of happiness, however parents also reported different levels depending on the age of their child. Thus, the […]
New Scientist reveals the anatomy of the earworm: The study is the first to look at the neural basis for “involuntary musical imagery” – or “earworms”. They aren’t just a curiosity, says study co-author Lauren Stewart at Goldsmith’s, University of London, but could have a biological function. Stewart, a music psychologist, was first inspired to study earworms by a regular feature on the radio station BBC 6Music, in which listeners would write in with songs they had woken up with in their heads. There was a lot of interest from the public in what they are and where they had come from, but there was little research on the topic, she says. … People who suffered earworms more frequently had thicker cortices in areas involved in auditory perception and pitch discrimination. “Areas in the auditory cortex that we know are active when you actually listen to music seem to be physically different in people who […]
Science Daily covers a Northwestern University study that shows how to remove biases from your brain while you’re sleeping: Other researchers have documented many unsavory consequences of common social biases. When playing a videogame with instructions to shoot only people carrying weapons, players were more likely to shoot unarmed targets when they were Black versus White. Bias also can be demonstrated in hiring decisions. For instance, scientists were more likely to hire male than equally qualified female candidates for research positions. … Following the training, participants took a nap. While they were in deep sleep and without their knowledge, one of the sounds was played repeatedly, but with the volume set low enough to avoid disturbing sleep. The sleep procedure produced the selective benefits that the investigators expected. Bias reduction was stronger for the specific type of training reactivated during sleep. This relative advantage remained one week later.
Scientific American examines what’s so wise about cracking up at meetings: …Lehmann-Willenbrock and Allen explored whether humor in the workplace might also help a corporation boost its bottom line. In a longitudinal investigation of team efficiency and productivity, they evaluated humor patterns in the regular team meetings of two industrial organizations in Germany, and then examined short-term and long-term outcomes. To assess humor patterns, Lehmann-Willenbrock and Allen first videotaped 54 different team meetings, each roughly forty-five minutes long, that collectively involved over 350 employees. If you find work meetings to be arduous and dull, you would not want to be on this research team, for the investigators then watched all of those meeting tapes and coded the team interactions. They were particularly interested in positive humor patterns, that is, upbeat, funny remarks followed by laughter. They intentionally did not include negative humor (sarcasm, put-downs) or failed humor (e.g., a joke followed by silence). After coding […]
Science Daily peeks into the weird world of Exploding Head Syndrome, a surprisingly common condition in which young people are suddenly awoken by an ear-splitting boom: Brian Sharpless, a Washington State University assistant professor and director of the university psychology clinic, found that nearly one in five — 18 percent — of college students interviewed said they had experienced it at least once. It was so bad for some that it significantly impacted their lives, he said. “Unfortunately for this minority of individuals, no well-articulated or empirically supported treatments are available, and very few clinicians or researchers assess for it,” he said. The study also found that more than one-third of those who had exploding head syndrome also experienced isolated sleep paralysis, a frightening experience in which one cannot move or speak when waking up. People with this condition will literally dream with their eyes wide open. The study is the largest of its kind, […]
SONG: “Sleeping.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Naps Help Infants Form Memories“, Laboratory Equipment, 14 January 2015, as used in the post “Naps make memories (in infants).” ABSTRACT: I’m so tired. This is so late at night that I’m putting it in the queue. Lots of delay (in both the musical sense and the getting-it-done sense). Tried to get a vocoder to work, but it refused. My life would be so much better if I actually had a room somewhere I could, like, sing in. Rather than whispering in the living room in the middle of the night. Anyway, it’s about babies, about remembering that thing that is always just out of reach of your conscious mind, that feeling of comfort and satisfaction that goes beyond words, that you can really only remember when you’re sleeping. Because sleep makes memories. It made the memories when you were very young, before there were words to […]
Probably us too, but Laboratory Equipment is only looking at the way babies need naps to remember new things: In a study, which is the first of its kind, researchers from the Univ. of Sheffield and Ruhr Univ. Bochum, Germany, found that the notion of “sleeping like a baby” is extremely important in declarative memory consolidation — such as retaining facts, events and knowledge. Researchers explored whether daytime sleep after learning helped babies to remember new behavior. The study focused on 216 healthy six to 12 month-old infants and tested their ability to recall newly learned skills. The youngsters were shown how to remove and manipulate a mitten from a hand puppet and were given the opportunity to reproduce these actions after delays of four and 24 hours. Infants who did not nap after learning were compared with age-matched infants who napped for at least 30 minutes within four hours of learning the target actions. […]
Scientific American‘s Michael Shermer gets at the root of why we’re so fascinated with the walking dead: Zombies, for one thing, fit into the horror genre in which monstrous creatures—like dangerous predators in our ancestral environment—trigger physiological fight-or-flight reactions such as an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and the release of such stress hormones as cortisol and adrenaline that help us prepare for danger. New environments may contain an element of risk, but we must explore them to find new sources of food and mates. So danger contains an element of both fear and excitement. We also have a fascination with liminal beings that fall in between categories, writes philosopher Stephen T. Asma in his 2009 book On Monsters (Oxford University Press). The fictional Frankenstein monster, like most zombies, is a being in between animate and inanimate, human and nonhuman. Hermaphrodites fall between male and female, and hybrid animals fall between species. Our […]
I don’t normally go to Business Insider for science news, but they’ve actually got a pretty good rundown of recent research into the problems with taking smart phones to bed with you: Blue light is part of the full light spectrum, which means we’re exposed to it by the sun every day. However, nighttime exposure to that light, which is emitted at high levels by smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other LED screens, may be damaging your vision. It also suppresses production of the hormone melatonin, which throws off your body’s natural sleep cues. … 1. The damage that this habit does to our eyes alone is both significant and surprising. Direct exposure to blue light can cause damage to the retina. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation warns that retinal damage caused by blue light may lead to macular degeneration, which causes the loss of central vision — the ability to see what’s in front of […]
Nature has more on how the veterinary tranquilizer-slash-rave drug can reverse “anhedonia” (the inability to feel happy) for 14 days – long enough to bust sufferers out of otherwise untreatable bipolar depression: The present study used a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover design to examine whether a single ketamine infusion could reduce anhedonia levels in 36 patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression. The study also used positron emission tomography imaging in a subset of patients to explore the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning ketamine’s anti-anhedonic effects. We found that ketamine rapidly reduced the levels of anhedonia. Furthermore, this reduction occurred independently from reductions in general depressive symptoms. “Positron emission tomography imaging” is a fancy way to say “PET scan.” They were looking inside people’s brains. And what they found… Anti-anhedonic effects were specifically related to increased glucose metabolism in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and putamen. Our study emphasizes the importance of the glutamatergic system in treatment-refractory bipolar depression, […]
Nature breaks the news to behaviorists – and this is more important than it might seem – that fish don’t really think mirrors are uninvited strangers: “There’s been a very long history of using a mirror as it’s just so handy,” says Robert Elwood, an animal-behaviour researcher at Queen’s University in Belfast, UK. Using a mirror radically simplifies aggression experiments, cutting down the number of animals required and providing the animal being observed with an ‘opponent’ perfectly matched in terms of size and weight. But in a study just published in Animal Behaviour, Elwood and his team add to evidence that many mirror studies are flawed. The researchers looked at how convict cichlid fish (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) reacted both to mirrors and to real fish of their own species. This species prefers to display their right side in aggression displays, which means that they end up alongside each other in a head-to-tail configuration. It is impossible […]
Daily Beast looks over Washington University research that’s found that the singular diagnosis of schizophrenia is actually a compound disease, caused by eight different genetic disorders that “cluster” into different combinations: As senior investigator Dr. C. Robert Cloninger notes, “[genes] don’t work by themselves. They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.” Rather than focusing on the individual genes that have been associated with schizophrenia, this team looked instead at the interactions between genes in order to isolate the causes of the illness. … “There isn’t just this one kind of schizophrenia but actually several different syndromes where some people have positive symptoms like hallucinations and delusions [and] others have negative symptoms where they’re not able to think logically and these different syndromes are associated with different groups of genes.” Instead of […]
Science Daily takes us humans out of the driver’s seat and puts the germs inside us in charge of the menu tonight: In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way. Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem — our digestive tracts — they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for […]