SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

Click to embiggen

Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

Click to embiggen

Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

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Quit Facebook. You’ll be happier. (Science says so.)

12 November 2015 // 0 Comments

The aptly named Huh magazine sums up a Danish study that found people who leave Facebook feel measurably better about life: They took a group of 1,095 Facebook users and split them into two groups. The first group were allowed to continue using the social network on a daily basis, while the other group were forced to go completely cold turkey, staying off the site for the duration of the experiment. The results were incredibly revealing – after just 7 days 88% of the group that left Facebook said they felt “happy” as opposed to 81% in the group still using the site. They also felt less angry, less lonely, less depressed, more decisive, more enthusiastic, and enjoyed their lives more. Ditching Facebook also appeared to reduce stress levels by as much as 55%. They’re some pretty strong results… “People on Facebook are 39% more likely to feel less happy than their friends,” reads the […]

Weird stuff: Better for your brain and your waistline.

30 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Scientific American reveals that the stuff you really weren’t expecting – the “unusual, the jarring, the culturally shocking” – can improve your cognitive ability and curb your urges to overeat: The first two experiments took place during Fourth of July and Labor Day picnics. For the July Fourth party, white plates were randomly mixed into stacks of stars-and-stripes plates. On Labor Day, Halloween-adorned plates were mixed in with patriotic plates. Then guests selected food from a buffet line. The result? On Labor Day, guests put less food on the Halloween-themed than on the patriotic plates. And on the Fourth of July, they put less food on plain white plates than on stars-and-stripes plates. In other parts of this study researchers [James A. Mourey, Ben C. P. Lam and Daphna Oyserman] found that people who have been exposed to culturally-disfluent situations performed better on cognitive reasoning tests and were less likely to succumb to impulse purchases […]

Self-control eats your memory.

15 October 2015 // 0 Comments

The Guardian reveals how exerting the willpower not to eat that next donut actually lowers your ability to remember things clearly: In the lab, self-control – or response inhibition, as neuroscientists call it – is often tested with the ‘Go/ no–go’ procedure. This typically involves showing participants a stream of sensory cues, and to respond to most of them by performing a simple action, such as pressing a button. But a small subset of the cues are slightly different from the rest, and when these appear, they are supposed to withhold their usual response and refrain from pressing the button. The number of times a participant incorrectly presses the button on these “no-go” trials is thus taken as a measure of their self-control. Earlier this year, Yu-Chin Chiu and Tobias Egner of Duke University in North Carolina reported that response inhibition impairs memory encoding. They asked volunteers to perform a ‘Go/ no–go’ task, using photographs […]

Love and Fitness

16 September 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Oh, and your picky eater is doomed, too.

5 August 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

You don’t know how (un)happy your children are.

4 August 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Earworms (hopelessly catchy tunes) get stuck in certain brain shapes.

17 July 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Sleep away your bad attitudes.

29 May 2015 // 0 Comments

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.

Humor boosts the bottom line. (Call it “funny business.”)

9 April 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Has your head ever exploded? (Or *sounded* like it?)

30 March 2015 // 0 Comments

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

23 January 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Naps make memories (in infants).

19 January 2015 // 0 Comments

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. […]

Why… zombies?

2 January 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Screen light too bright, can’t get to sleep at night (now, eyes won’t focus right).

4 November 2014 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Ketamine – “special K” – can break treatment-resistant depression.

21 October 2014 // 0 Comments

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, […]

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