science

You’re waiting for a train. A train that’ll take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you. But you can’t know for sure. Yet it doesn’t matter. Now, tell me why?

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A woman has reached the age of 24 without anyone realising she was missing a large part of her brain. […] The discovery was made when the woman was admitted to the Chinese PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command in Shandong Province complaining of dizziness and nausea. She told doctors she’d had problems walking steadily for most of her life, and her mother reported that she hadn’t walked until she was 7 and that her speech only became intelligible at the age of 6.

Doctors did a CAT scan and immediately identified the source of the problem – her entire cerebellum was missing. The space where it should be was empty of tissue. Instead it was filled with cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions the brain and provides defence against disease.

The cerebellum – sometimes known as the “little brain” – is located underneath the two hemispheres. It looks different from the rest of the brain because it consists of much smaller and more compact folds of tissue. It represents about 10 per cent of the brain’s total volume but contains 50 per cent of its neurons. […]

The cerebellum’s main job is to control voluntary movements and balance, and it is also thought to be involved in our ability to learn specific motor actions and speak.

{ NewScientist | Continue reading }

It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it is told.

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When individual performance was publicly posted in the workplace, employees working in a group performed better than when working alone; however, when individual performance was not posted, employees working in a group performed worse than when working alone.

{ Management Science | Continue reading }

photo { Lionat Natalia Petri }

‘Science does not think.’ —Heidegger

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The main objective of this study was to describe male and female lumbar spine and hip motion and muscle activation patterns during coitus and compare these motions and muscle activity across five common coital positions. […]

A secondary objective was to determine if simulated coitus could be used in place of real coitus for future coitus biomechanics research.

{ via University of Waterloo | PDF }

‘Society is not a disease, it is a disaster.’ –Cioran

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On Facebook, people frequently express emotions, which are later seen by their friends via Facebook’s “News Feed” product. Because people’s friends frequently produce much more content than one person can view, the News Feed filters posts, stories, and activities undertaken by friends. News Feed is the primary manner by which people see content that friends share. Which content is shown or omitted in the News Feed is determined via a ranking algorithm that Facebook continually develops and tests in the interest of showing viewers the content they will find most relevant and engaging. One such test is reported in this study: A test of whether posts with emotional content are more engaging. […]

For people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results suggest that the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks, and providing support for previously contested claims that emotions spread via contagion through a network.

{ PNAS | Continue reading }

polaroid prints { Barbara Allen photographed by Andy Warhol, 1977 }

‘You forget that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence: and the kingdom of heaven is like a woman.’ —James Joyce

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Fifty-eight adolescent girls and 60 young adult women viewed a Facebook profile with either a sexualized profile photo or a nonsexualized profile photo and then evaluated the profile owner.

Results indicated that the sexualized profile owner was considered less physically attractive, less socially attractive, and less competent to complete tasks.

{ APA/PsycNET | Continue reading }

photo { Dirk Braeckman }

Three quarks for Muster Mark

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In a little over a century, we’ve discovered that what we once thought was the fundamental, smallest unit of matter — the atom — is actually made up of even smaller particles: nuclei and electrons. The nuclei themselves are made of protons and neutrons, and those protons and neutrons are made of still smaller particles: quarks and gluons.

Those particles — quarks, gluons, and electrons — are just some of the particles that cannot be broken up into smaller constituents to the best of our knowledge. All told, when we count up the fundamental particles that we know of, the ones that cannot be broken apart into anything smaller or lighter, we count a number of different types:

— six quarks (and their antiquark counterparts), each coming in three different color possibilities and two different spins,

— three charged leptons, the electron, muon and tau (and their anti-lepton counterparts), each allowed two different spin states,

— three neutral leptons, the neutrinos, along with the three anti-neutrinos, where the neutrinos all have a left-handed spin and the antis have a right-handed spin,

— the gluons, which all have two different spin states and which come in eight color varieties,

— the photon, which has two different allowable spins,

— the W-and-Z bosons, which come in three types (the W+, W-, and Z) and have three allowable spin states apiece (-1, 0, and +1), and

— the Higgs boson, which exists in only one state.

That’s the Standard Model of elementary particles. […] However, we know there must be more to the Universe, as this doesn’t account for dark matter, for one. Furthermore, there are theoretical limitations and inconsistencies to the physics we presently know and so we suspect there’s more physics beyond the Standard Model to explain it.

{ Ethan Siegel | Continue reading }

In the morning signorina we’ll go walking

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Although many studies have reported that women’s preferences for masculine physical characteristics in men change systematically during the menstrual cycle, the hormonal mechanisms underpinning these changes are currently poorly understood. Previous studies investigating the relationships between measured hormone levels and women’s masculinity preferences tested only judgments of men’s facial attractiveness. Results of these studies suggested that preferences for masculine characteristics in men’s faces were related to either women’s estradiol or testosterone levels.

To investigate the hormonal correlates of within-woman variation in masculinity preferences further, here we measured 62 women’s salivary estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone levels and their preferences for masculine characteristics in men’s voices in five weekly test sessions. Multilevel modeling of these data showed that changes in salivary estradiol were the best predictor of changes in women’s preferences for vocal masculinity.

These results complement other recent research implicating estradiol in women’s mate preferences, attention to courtship signals, sexual motivation, and sexual strategies, and are the first to link women’s voice preferences directly to measured hormone levels.

{ Hormones and Behavior }

related { Evidence to Suggest that Women’s Sexual Behavior is Influenced by Hip Width Rather than Waist-to-Hip Ratio }

‘No occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often.’ —Mark Twain

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The systematic biases seen in people’s probability judgments are typically taken as evidence that people do not use the rules of probability theory when reasoning about probability but instead use heuristics, which sometimes yield reasonable judgments and sometimes yield systematic biases. This view has had a major impact in economics, law, medicine, and other fields; indeed, the idea that people cannot reason with probabilities has become a truism. We present a simple alternative to this view, where people reason about probability according to probability theory but are subject to random variation or noise in the reasoning process. […] Results suggest that people’s probability judgments embody the rules of probability theory and that biases in those judgments are due to the effects of random noise.

{ APA/PsycNET | Continue reading }

We tend to see what we want to see

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Common parlance such as “ray of hope” depicts an association between hope and the perception of brightness. Building on research in embodied cognition and conceptual metaphor, we examined whether incidental emotion of hopelessness can affect brightness perception, which may influence people’s preference for lighting. Across four studies, we found that people who feel hopeless judge the environment to be darker (Study 1). As a consequence, hopeless people expressed a greater desire for ambient brightness and higher wattage light bulbs (Studies 2 and 3). Study 4 showed the reversal of the effect — being in a dimmer (vs. brighter) room induces greater hopelessness toward the perceived job search prospects. Taken together, these results suggest that hopeless feeling seems to bias people’s perceptual judgment of ambient brightness, which may potentially impact their electricity consumption.

{ SAGE }

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord.

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Using data from an online hotel reservation site, the authors jointly examine consumers’ quality choice decision at the time of purchase and subsequent satisfaction with the hotel stay.

They identify three circumstantial variables at the time of purchase that are likely to influence both the choice decisions and the postpurchase satisfaction: the time gap between purchase and consumption, distance between purchase and consumption, and time of purchase (business/nonbusiness hours).

The authors incorporate these three circumstantial variables into a formal two-stage economic model and find that consumers who travel farther and make reservations during business hours are more likely to select higher-quality hotels but are less satisfied.

{ JAMA | Continue reading }

photo { Philip Lorca-diCorcia, Roy, ‘in his 20s’, Los Angeles, California, $50 (Hustlers series), 1990-1992 }

Turns out this principal is a religious fanatic, and he thinks I’m possessed by some sort of dick devil

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Some people can handle stressful situations better than others, and it’s not all in their genes: Even identical twins show differences in how they respond.

Researchers have identified a specific electrical pattern in the brains of genetically identical mice that predicts how well individual animals will fare in stressful situations.

The findings may eventually help researchers prevent potential consequences of chronic stress — such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other psychiatric disorders — in people who are prone to these problems.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

Everything interesting takes place in the dark

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Recent theoretical developments in evolutionary psychology suggest that more intelligent individuals may be more likely to prefer to remain childless than less intelligent individuals.

Analyses of the National Child Development Study show that more intelligent men and women express preference to remain childless early in their reproductive careers, but only more intelligent women (not more intelligent men) are more likely to remain childless by the end of their reproductive careers. […]

Because women have a greater impact on the average intelligence of future generations, the dysgenic fertility among women is predicted to lead to a decline in the average intelligence of the population in advanced industrial nations.

{ Social Science Research | PDF }

photo { Richard Kern }