Things tagged science:
Finzi began musing on the facial feedback hypothesis, which holds that physical expression is an integral component of emotion. You can feel sad or angry without moving your face, but, the theory holds, those emotions will not be as strong or persist for as long if your face is not moving in the expected manner. Put another way, relative to emotion, the face and its muscles are a privileged area of the body. Whatever you do with your face transmits feelings back to your brain.
In 2003, Finzi treated several subjects suffering from moderate to severe depression with Botox, paralyzing the muscles in their brows that create expressions of sadness, anger, and fear. The results were astonishing.
Benjamin Morris at FiveThirtyEight:
Even though national teams are patchwork and only play together for a handful of games each year, how Messi plays with Argentina relates to what is ultimately a fair criticism of his success: Most of it has come for FC Barcelona, a free-spending virtual all-star squad, packed with many of the world’s best players.
As the primary striker for such a juggernaut, it can be hard to detangle Messi’s goal-scoring prowess from Barcelona’s general offensive dominance. And the 2013-14 season hasn’t helped: Battling minor injuries and facing competition for touches from superstar arrival Neymar, Messi’s most recent season was slightly below par by his standards, yet Barca finished second in La Liga. (And in the seven games Messi missed, they went 6-1.) He still scored 41 goals, but that total was less than the 60 he scored the year before, and fewer than the 51 that rival Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid scored en route to capturing the Ballon d’Or.
I think this criticism is fair — and I found it intriguing enough to look into the matter myself. So I gathered and organized data, crunched it, re-crunched it, and gathered more data and crunched it some more.
Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State looked at deaths caused by hurricanes between 1950 — when storms were first named — and 2012.
Even after tossing out Katrina and Audrey, particularly deadly storms that would have skewed their model, they found that hurricanes with female names caused an average of 45 deaths, compared with 23 deaths from storms with male names.
In order to back up their findings, the scientists surveyed hundreds of individuals and found that, even on paper, they were less fearful of storms they thought would hit like a girl.
“People imagining a ‘female’ hurricane were not as willing to seek shelter,” said study co-author Sharon Shavitt in a statement. “The stereotypes that underlie these judgments are subtle and not necessarily hostile toward women — they may involve viewing women as warmer and less aggressive than men.”
In 2012, in the nature magazine Orion, Kingsnorth began to publish a series of essays articulating his new, dark ecological vision. He set his views in opposition to what he called neo-environmentalism — the idea that, as he put it, “civilization, nature and people can only be ‘saved’ by enthusiastically embracing biotechnology, synthetic biology, nuclear power, geoengineering and anything else with the prefix ‘new’ that annoys Greenpeace.” Or as Stewart Brand, the 75-year-old “social entrepreneur” best known as the publisher of the “ Whole Earth Catalog,” has put it: “We are as gods and have to get good at it.”
Stefano Maggiolo at The poor man’s math blog:
At the time I’m writing, near the winter solstice, Madrid’s sunset is around 17:55, more than an hour later than the sunset in, for example, Naples, which is at a similar latitude. The same difference holds at the summer solstice and around the year. Just because it applies to most places I’ve been, a time like that in Naples feels more natural to me, and probably to most non-Spanish people. But is it?
Looking for other regions of the world having the same peculiarity of Spain, I edited a world map from Wikipedia to show the difference between solar and standard time. It turns out, there are many places where the sun rises and sets late in the day, like in Spain, but not a lot where it is very early.
Interesting, but also, I believe we should abolish all timezones, and use one time.
Alvin Powell in the Harvard Gazette:
After 26 years of workdays spent watching bacteria multiply, Richard Lenski has learned a thing or two.
He’s learned that naturalist Charles Darwin was wrong about some things. For one, evolution doesn’t always occur in steps so slow and steady that changes can’t be observed.
Lenski also learned that a laboratory freezer can function as a time machine.
A professor at Michigan State University, Lenski has watched E. coli bacteria multiply through 59,000 generations, a span that has allowed him to observe evolution in real time. Since his Long-Term Experimental Evolution Project began in 1988, the bacteria have doubled in size, begun to mutate more quickly, and become more efficient at using the glucose in the solution where they’re grown.
Kevin Poulsen in Wired:
OkCupid was founded by Harvard math majors in 2004, and it first caught daters’ attention because of its computational approach to matchmaking. Members answer droves of multiple-choice survey questions on everything from politics, religion, and family to love, sex, and smartphones.
On average, respondents select 350 questions from a pool of thousands—“Which of the following is most likely to draw you to a movie?” or “How important is religion/God in your life?” For each, the user records an answer, specifies which responses they’d find acceptable in a mate, and rates how important the question is to them on a five-point scale from “irrelevant” to “mandatory.” OkCupid’s matching engine uses that data to calculate a couple’s compatibility. The closer to 100 percent—mathematical soul mate—the better.
But mathematically, McKinlay’s compatibility with women in Los Angeles was abysmal. OkCupid’s algorithms use only the questions that both potential matches decide to answer, and the match questions McKinlay had chosen—more or less at random—had proven unpopular. When he scrolled through his matches, fewer than 100 women would appear above the 90 percent compatibility mark. And that was in a city containing some 2 million women (approximately 80,000 of them on OkCupid). On a site where compatibility equals visibility, he was practically a ghost.
He realized he’d have to boost that number. If, through statistical sampling, McKinlay could ascertain which questions mattered to the kind of women he liked, he could construct a new profile that honestly answered those questions and ignored the rest.
More than you’ve ever wanted to know about the Sierpinski triangle, or “The sierpinski triangle page to end most sierpinski triangle pages ™”
John Tierney in the NYT:
“If you’re living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure,” Dr. Hart said in an interview, arguing that the caricature of enslaved crack addicts comes from a misinterpretation of the famous rat experiments.
Lifting voices together in praise can be a transcendent experience, unifying a congregation in a way that is somehow both fervent and soothing. But is there actually a physical basis for those feelings?
To find this out, researchers of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied the heart rates of high school choir members as they joined their voices. Their findings, published this week in Frontiers in Neuroscience, confirm that choir music has calming effects on the heart — especially when sung in unison.
The human palate is arguably the weakest of the five traditional senses. This raises an important question regarding wine tasting: is it bullshit, or is it complete and utter bullshit?
As life has evolved, its complexity has increased exponentially, just like Moore’s law. Now geneticists have extrapolated this trend backwards and found that by this measure, life is older than the Earth itself.
Nature vs. nurture.
Nathaniel Rich in the NYT Magazine:
Sommer was conducting research on hydrozoans, small invertebrates that, depending on their stage in the life cycle, resemble either a jellyfish or a soft coral. Every morning, Sommer went snorkeling in the turquoise water off the cliffs of Portofino. He scanned the ocean floor for hydrozoans, gathering them with plankton nets. Among the hundreds of organisms he collected was a tiny, relatively obscure species known to biologists as Turritopsis dohrnii. Today it is more commonly known as the immortal jellyfish.
Sommer kept his hydrozoans in petri dishes and observed their reproduction habits. After several days he noticed that his Turritopsis dohrnii was behaving in a very peculiar manner, for which he could hypothesize no earthly explanation. Plainly speaking, it refused to die. It appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.
Tim Doody in The Morning News:
For decades, the U.S. government banned medical studies of the effects of LSD. But for one longtime, elite researcher, the promise of mind-blowing revelations was just too tempting.
Carl Zimmer in the NYT:
For a century, doctors have waged war against bacteria, using antibiotics as their weapons. But that relationship is changing as scientists become more familiar with the 100 trillion microbes that call us home — collectively known as the microbiome.
“I would like to lose the language of warfare,” said Julie Segre, a senior investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute. “It does a disservice to all the bacteria that have co-evolved with us and are maintaining the health of our bodies.”
This new approach to health is known as medical ecology. Rather than conducting indiscriminate slaughter, Dr. Segre and like-minded scientists want to be microbial wildlife managers.
Pam Belluck in the NYT:
The results surprised them. The heart rates of relatives and friends of the fire-walkers followed an almost identical pattern to the fire-walkers’ rates, spiking and dropping almost in synchrony. The heart rates of visiting spectators did not. The relatives’ rates synchronized throughout the event, which lasted 30 minutes, with 28 fire-walkers each making five-second walks. So relatives or friends’ heart rates matched a fire-walker’s rate before, during and after his walk. Even people related to other fire-walkers showed similar patterns.
Experts not involved in the study said despite the small number of participants, the results were intriguing. They build on research showing heart rates of fans of team sports surge when their teams score, and on studies demonstrating that people rocking in rocking chairs or tapping their fingers eventually synchronize their movements.