Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Carbon emissions per capita by country

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From the graph:

Highest carbon emissions per capita

1 Middle East oil producing countries – Bahrain/Oman/Kuwait/Qatar/UAE
2 Canada
3 Saudi Arabia
4 US
5 Australia/NZ
6 Russia
7 South Korea
8 Kazakhstan/Turkmenistan
9 Taiwan
10 Japan

Only 9.5% of France’s electricity production comes from fossil fuels, much lower than many other developed countries like the U.S. at 60% and Japan at 69%.

From Visual Capital:

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2022 at 11:23 pm

Fermented foods and fibre may lower stress levels – new study

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John Cryan, Vice President for Research & Innovation, University College Cork, writes in The Conversation:

When it comes to dealing with stress, we’re often told the best things we can do are exercise, make time for our favourite activities or try meditation or mindfulness.

But the kinds of foods we eat may also be an effective way of dealing with stress, according to research published by me and other members of APC Microbiome Ireland. Our latest study has shown that eating more fermented foods and fibre daily for just four weeks had a significant effect on lowering perceived stress levels.

Over the last decade, a growing body of research has shown that diet can have a huge impact on our mental health. In fact, a healthy diet may even reduce the risk of many common mental illnesses.

The mechanisms underpinning the effect of diet on mental health are still not fully understood. But one explanation for this link could be via the relationship between our brain and our microbiome (the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut). Known as the gut-brain axis, this allows the brain and gut to be in constant communication with each other, allowing essential body functions such as digestion and appetite to happen. It also means that the emotional and cognitive centres in our brain are closely connected to our gut.

While previous research has shown stress and behaviour are also linked to our microbiome, it has been unclear until now whether changing diet (and therefore our microbiome) could have a distinct effect on stress levels.

This is what our study set out to do. To test this, we recruited 45 healthy people with relatively low-fibre diets, aged 18–59 years. More than half were women. The participants were split into two groups and randomly assigned a diet to follow for the four-week duration of the study. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2022 at 10:22 am

Highly Processed Foods ‘as Addictive’ as Tobacco

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Highly processed foods are detrimental to health, as has been demonstrated — but they are also highly addictive, which means they are lucrative: repeat customers are guaranteed. So it comes down to whether the economic structure of the society responds to health or to money. In the US, certainly, the driving motive of any company is purely profit, so for a corporation the choice is simple.

Becky McCall writes in Medscape:

Highly processed foods meet the same criteria as tobacco for addiction, and labeling them as such might benefit public health, according to a new US study that proposes a set of criteria to assess the addictive potential of some foods.

The research suggests that healthcare professionals are taking steps towards framing food addiction as a clinical entity in its own right; it currently lacks validated treatment protocols and recognition as a clinical diagnosis.

Meanwhile, other data, reported by researchers last week at the Diabetes Professional Care (DPC) 2022 conference in London, UK, also add support to the clinical recognition of food addiction.

Clinical psychologist Jen Unwin, PhD, from Southport, UK, showed that a 3-month online program of low carbohydrate diet together with psychoeducational support significantly reduced food addiction symptoms among a varied group of individuals, not all of whom were overweight or had obesity.

Unwin said her new data represent the first widescale clinical audit of its kind, other than a prior report of three patients with food addiction who were successfully treated with a ketogenic diet.

“Food addiction explains so much of what we see in clinical practice, where intelligent people understand what we tell them about the physiology associated with a low-carb diet, and they follow it for a while, but then they relapse,” said Unwin, explaining the difficulties faced by around 20% of her patients who are considered to have food addiction.

Meanwhile, the authors of the US study, led by Ashley N. Gearhardt, PhD, a psychologist from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, write that the ability of highly processed foods (HPFs) “to rapidly . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2022 at 6:27 am

We’re told to ‘eat a rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables. Here’s what each colour does in our body

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Evangeline Mantzioris, Program Director of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Accredited Practising Dietitian, University of South Australia, has a useful article in The Conversation on what specific beneficial substances are found in vegetables and fruits according to color.

I’ll note that the lycopene in tomatoes is bioavailable only after the tomatoes are cooked (and thus canned tomatoes and tomato sauce and puree are good sources of lycopene). Red watermelon is an excellent source, and the lycopene in watermelons is available without cooking. 

Her article reminded me of a post I wrote some years back, after reading David Heber’s book on eating by color. That post includes a downloadable PDF checklist if you want to keep track.

Mantzioris’s article begins:

Nutritionists will tell you to eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. This isn’t just because it looks nice on the plate. Each colour signifies different nutrients our body needs.

The nutrients found in plant foods are broadly referred to as phytonutrients. There are at least 5,000 known phytonutrients, and probably many more.

So what does each colour do for our body and our overall health?

Red

Red fruits and vegetables are coloured by a type of phytonutrient called “carotenoids” (including ones named lycopene, flavones and quercetin – but the names aren’t as important as what they do). These carotenoids are found in . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2022 at 11:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Even mild Covid is linked to brain damage, scans show

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Wear N95 masks when in public indoor spaces. If not, Benjamin Ryan of NBC News explains what can happen:

During at least the first few months following a coronavirus infection, even mild cases of Covid-19 are associated with subtle tissue damage and accelerated losses in brain regions tied to the sense of smell, as well as a small loss in the brain’s overall volume, a new British study finds. Having mild Covid is also associated with a cognitive function deficit.

These are the striking findings of the new study led by University of Oxford investigators, one that leading Covid researchers consider particularly important because it is the first study of the disease’s potential impact on the brain that is based on brain scans taken both before and after participants contracted the coronavirus.

“This study design overcomes some of the major limitations of most brain-related studies of Covid-19 to date, which rely on analysis and interpretation at a single time point in people who had Covid-19,” said Dr. Serena S. Spudich, a neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

The research, which was published Monday in Nature, also stands out because  . . .

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27 November 2022 at 4:12 pm

The electrical language of fungi

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Close-up of two mushrooms glowing with a yellow-green light.
Bioluminscent Ghost Fungus – Omphalotus nidiformis. Image: Boaz Ng.

Yasmin Dahnoun writes in Ecologist:

Do mushrooms talk to each other? A new study suggests that they do, through the use of electrical signals. And their language is complex.

In observing the spikes of electrical activity in particular species of fungi, computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England found patterns that were strikingly similar to human language.

This article first appeared in the latest issue of the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine.

Through experiments, he translated the spikes into a lexicon of 50 ‘words’ based on patterns typically associated with human speech.

Decoding

The electrical signals responded to changes in the environment such as food and injury, according to the paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

To record this activity, Adamatzky . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2022 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Why it’s smart to wear a mask

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Full disclosure: I wear an N95 mask whenever I am in a public indoor space (e.g., grocery shopping). 

Chart showing how long it takes to get infected with covid when you and someone infected are using different mitigation levels. Example: if 1 of two persons is infected, if either one is wearing an N95 mask, the uninfected person is safe for 2.5 hours. If both are wearing N95 masks, the uninfected person is safe for 25 hours.

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27 November 2022 at 11:03 am

Embrace what may be the most important green technology ever. It could save us all

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George Monbiot writes in the Guardian:

So what do we do now? After 27 summits and no effective action, it seems that the real purpose was to keep us talking. If governments were serious about preventing climate breakdown, there would have been no Cops 2-27. The major issues would have been resolved at Cop1, as the ozone depletion crisis was at a single summit in Montreal.

Nothing can now be achieved without mass protest, whose aim, like that of protest movements before us, is to reach the critical mass that triggers a social tipping point. But, as every protester knows, this is only part of the challenge. We also need to translate our demands into action, which requires political, economic, cultural and technological change. All are necessary, none are sufficient. Only together can they amount to the change we need to see.

Let’s focus for a moment on technology. Specifically, what might be the most important environmental technology ever developed: precision fermentation.

Precision fermentation is a refined form of brewing, a means of multiplying microbes to create specific products. It has been used for many years to produce drugs and food additives. But now, in several labs and a few factories, scientists are developing what could be a new generation of staple foods.

The developments I find most interesting use no agricultural feedstocks. The microbes they breed feed on hydrogen or methanol – which can be made with renewable electricity – combined with water, carbon dioxide and a very small amount of fertiliser. They produce a flour that contains roughly 60% protein, a much higher concentration than any major crop can achieve (soy beans contain 37%, chick peas, 20%). When they are bred to produce specific proteins and fats, they can create much better replacements than plant products for meat, fish, milk and eggs. And they have the potential to do two astonishing things.

The first is to shrink to a remarkable degree the footprint of food production. One paper estimates that precision fermentation using methanol needs 1,700 times less land than the most efficient agricultural means of producing protein: soy grown in the US. This suggests it might use, respectively, 138,000 and 157,000 times less land than the least efficient means: beef and lamb production. Depending on the electricity source and recycling rates, it can also enable radical reductions in water use and greenhouse gas emissions. Because the process is contained, it avoids the spillover of waste and chemicals into the wider world caused by farming.

If livestock production is replaced by this technology, it creates what could be the last major opportunity to prevent Earth systems collapse, namely ecological restoration on a massive scale. By rewilding the vast tracts now occupied by livestock (by far the greatest of all human land uses) or by the crops used to feed them – as well as the seas being trawled or gill-netted to destruction – and restoring forests, wetlands, savannahs, natural grasslands, mangroves, reefs and sea floors, we could both stop the sixth great extinction and draw down much of the carbon we have released into the atmosphere.

The second astonishing possibility is breaking the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2022 at 3:06 pm

Frontline Work When Everyone Is Angry

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Christin Porath is professor of management at Georgetown University, a consultant who helps leading organizations create thriving workplaces, the author of Mastering Community: The Surprising Ways Coming Together Moves Us from Surviving to Thriving and Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, and a coauthor of The Cost of Bad BehaviorShe has  an interesting article in Harvard Business Review:

Editor’s note: This article mentions threats of violence and sexual assault.

In October 2020 Dr. Adrienne Boissy, then the chief patient experience officer at Cleveland Clinic, had a big problem, and it wasn’t just Covid-19. Caregivers at the hospital, already stretched thin by the pandemic, were coming to her with alarming reports of abusive behavior from patients and visitors: mean comments, screaming tirades, even racist insults. “It’s never been so bad!” she told me.

I’ve studied incivility — defined as rudeness, disrespect, or insensitive behavior — in workplaces for more than 20 years, polling hundreds of thousands of people worldwide about their experiences. But after that conversation with Dr. Boissy, who is now the chief medical officer at Qualtrics and a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic, I wondered whether incivility is getting worse over time, particularly for frontline workers, who labor in person and often interact directly with customers and patients. These workers’ industries include health care, protective services (think police officers), retail, food production and processing, maintenance, agriculture, transportation (including airlines), hospitality, and education.

My research has found that reports of incivility are indeed on the rise — as evidenced not just by viral videos of airline passengers refusing to wear masks or café patrons hurling racial epithets but also by my recent survey that asked more than 2,000 people around the world how they have experienced rudeness lately. Even amid a global health crisis in which frontline workers were heralded as essential and heroic, these employees still became punching bags on whom weary, stressed-out, often irrational customers (and sometimes fellow employees) took out their anxieties and frustrations.

This kind of incivility leads to negative outcomes not only for the workers who experience it directly but also those who witness it — all of which harms businesses and society. In this article, we’ll explore those consequences and discuss how leaders can help to improve things.

Note that incivility takes many forms, from ignoring people to intentionally undermining them to mocking, teasing, and belittling them. For this article, it does not refer to physical aggression or violence, although incivility can spiral into aggressive behaviors.

Where We Are

Identifying and studying incivility can be difficult, because . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article the author lists various causes (e.g., stress), but I found this one particularly interesting:

Lack of self-awareness.

One of the biggest takeaways from my decades of research is that incivility usually arises from ignorance — not malice. People lack self-awareness. According to research by Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and a collaborator of mine, a whopping 95% of people think they’re self-aware but only 10%–15% actually are. That means 80%–85% of people misunderstand how they’re perceived and how they affect others. We may have good intentions and work hard to be patient and tolerant, but our tones, nonverbal signals, or actions may come across differently to the people we interact with and those who witness the interactions.

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26 November 2022 at 12:22 pm

From lab to jab: Development time for vaccines

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Another chart from Conrad Hackett. (I’m following him on Mastodon: @conradhackett@sciences.social)

Article and source of chart

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2022 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Per country: Health spending vs. longevity

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Conrad Hackett posts on Mastodon:

Here’s a scatterplot of health spending per capita (x axis) and life expectancy (y axis) in OECD countries. The lines represent averages.

One country sits alone in the bottom right quadrant due to its much higher health spending and below-average life expectancy.

Source: oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/ae3016

Scatterplot showing averages by country of health spending vs. longevity. The trend is strongly that greater spending means greater longevity, with the US as outlier: great spending, low longevity.

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25 November 2022 at 5:06 pm

A Parasite Massively Improves A Wolf’s Chances Of Leading The Pack

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Rachell Funnel writes in IFLScience:

There’s a parasite at work among packs of grey wolves in America’s Yellowstone National Park, and bizarrely, the animals it infects have a far greater chance of leading their pack compared to wolves who have swerved infection. The culprit? Toxoplasma gondii – the parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis, a disease we can pick up from infected feces and undercooked meat.

T. gondii is a strange parasite, having been associated with risk-taking behaviors in human hosts as well as animals. Research has linked infection with the parasite to certain political views, and even suggested it can make you more attractive to others. Now, a study has found it could have unexpected benefits for wolves with big ambition, too.

The research looked at grey wolves (Canis lupus) living in Yellowstone, Wyoming, to see if or how infection with T. gondii influences wolf behavior. Armed with 26-years-worth of data and blood samples from 229 wolves, they were able to look for correlations between geography, behavior, and infection status.

Yellowstone is also home to cougars (Puma concolor) who are known to carry the parasite, and sure enough, wolves living in close proximity to pumas were more likely to be infected. Curiously, the analyses also showed that infection with the T. gondii parasite made the wolves much bolder. . .

Continue reading.

T. gondii also commonly infects housecats, and mice can get the parasite, which changes their behavior to be more foolhardy, thus making them easier prey for the cats.  More info here.

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25 November 2022 at 11:53 am

The Spoon Theory to explain the experience of illness

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Christine Miserandino has a good analogy and explanation of what it’s like to suffer a chronic illness:

My best friend and I were in the diner, talking. As usual, it was very late and we were eating French fries with gravy. Like normal girls our age, we spent a lot of time in the diner while in college, and most of the time we spent talking about boys, music or trivial things, that seemed very important at the time. We never got serious about anything in particular and spent most of our time laughing.

As I went to take some of my medicine with a snack as I usually did, she watched me with an awkward kind of stare, instead of continuing the conversation. She then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have Lupus and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about Lupus. She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?

I started to ramble on about pills, and aches and pains, but she kept pursuing, and didn’t seem satisfied with my answers. I was a little surprised as being my roommate in college and friend for years; I thought she already knew the medical definition of Lupus. Then she looked at me with a face every sick person knows well, the face of pure curiosity about something no one healthy can truly understand. She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.

As I tried to gain my composure, I glanced around the table for help or guidance, or at least stall for time to think. I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being effected, and give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity. I could have given up, cracked a joke like I usually do, and changed the subject, but I remember thinking if I don’t try to explain this, how could I ever expect her to understand. If I can’t explain this to my best friend, how could I explain my world to anyone else? I had to at least try.

At that moment, the spoon theory was born. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2022 at 9:56 am

Express gratitude – not because you will benefit from it, but others might

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Jennifer Cheavens, Associate Professor of Psychology, The Ohio State University, and David Cregg, Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology, The Ohio State University, write in The Conversation:

The world is currently in the midst of a pandemic where the most useful thing many of us can do is stay at home and keep away from othersSchoolsrestaurantsoffice buildings and movie theaters are closed. Many people are feeling disoriented, disconnected and scared.

At this time of soaring infection ratesshortages of medical supplies and economic downturns, there are also examples of people looking for ways to express their gratitude to those on the front lines of fighting the epidemic. In many European countries, for example, people are expressing gratitude for the work of the medical staff by clapping from their balconies. Recently, this same practice has migrated to New York City.

As psychology researchers, we have been working to study the connection between gratitude and well-being.

Gratitude and well-being connection

In 2013, psychologists Robert Emmons and Robin Stern explained gratitude as both appreciating the good things in life and recognizing that they come from someone else.

There is a strong correlation between gratitude and well-being. Researchers have found that individuals who report feeling and expressing gratitude more report a greater level of positive emotions such as happiness, optimism and joy.

At the same time, they have a lower level of negative emotions such as anger, distress, depression and shame. They also report a higher level of life satisfaction.

Furthermore, grateful individuals report a greater sense of purpose in life, more forgiveness and better quality of relationships, and they even seem to sleep better.

In short, grateful individuals seem to have more of the ingredients needed to thrive and flourish.

There are several plausible explanations for the apparent connection between gratitude and well-being. It may be that gratitude serves as a positive lens through which to view the world.

For example, grateful individuals may be inclined to see the good in people and situations, which may result in a more compassionate and less critical view of others and themselves.

Grateful individuals may also be naturally prone to forming mutually supportive relationships. When someone expresses gratitude, the recipient is more likely to connect with that person and to invest in that relationship in the future.

Gratitude exercises have weak effects

However, there is one important caveat to this research. It shows that gratitude is correlated with well-being, but it does not prove that expressing gratitude actually improves well-being.

Psychologists have conducted a number of experiments to see if giving thanks leads to greater well-being. For example, . . .

Continue reading.

And also in The Conversation, Richard Gunderman, Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University, writes:

As a physician, I have helped to care for many patients and families whose lives have been turned upside down by serious illnesses and injuries. In the throes of such catastrophes, it can be difficult to find cause for anything but lament. Yet Thanksgiving presents us with an opportunity to develop one of the healthiest, most life-affirming and convivial of all habits – that of counting and rejoicing in our blessings.

Gratitude’s benefits

Research shows that grateful people tend to be healthy and happy. They exhibit lower levels of stress and depression, cope better with adversity and sleep better. They tend to be happier and more satisfied with life. Even their partners tend to be more content with their relationships.

Perhaps when we are more focused on the good things we enjoy in life, we have more to live for and tend to take better care of ourselves and each other.

When researchers asked people to reflect on the past week and write about things that either irritated them or about which they felt grateful, those tasked with recalling good things were more optimistic, felt better about their lives and actually visited their physicians less.

It is no surprise that receiving thanks makes people happier, but so does expressing gratitude. An experiment that asked participants to write and deliver thank-you notes found large increases in reported levels of happiness, a benefit that lasted for an entire month.

Philosophical roots

One of the greatest minds in Western history, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, argued that we become what we habitually do. By changing our habits, we can become more thankful human beings.

If we spend our days ruminating on all that has gone poorly and how dark the prospects for the future appear, we can think ourselves into misery and resentment.

But we can also mold ourselves into the kind of people who seek out, recognize and celebrate all that we have to be grateful for.

This is not to say that anyone should become a Pollyanna, ceaselessly reciting the mantra from Voltaire’s “Candide,” “All is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.” There are injustices to be righted and wounds to be healed, and ignoring them would represent a lapse of moral responsibility.

But reasons to make the world a better place should never blind us to the many good things it already affords. How can we

Continue reading.

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24 November 2022 at 6:54 pm

An impressive animated video on climate change

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24 November 2022 at 6:02 pm

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) and Cognitive Decline

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23 November 2022 at 5:37 pm

A Soil Fungus That Causes Lung Infections Is Spreading Across the U.S.

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I don’t have a garden, but if I did, after reading this article I would definitely wear a face mask when cultivating the soil.

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22 November 2022 at 5:47 pm

Why women aren’t from Venus, and men aren’t from Mars

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In Nature, Emily Cooke interviews Gina Rippon:

Early research into schizophrenia alerted neuroscientist Gina Rippon to what she now calls the myth of the gendered brain, a term she used in the title of her first book. By examining examples taken from brain–behaviour research during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, right up to contemporary studies, the book, published in 2019, investigates the desire to find biological explanations for gendered societal norms. Rippon argues that our brains are not fixed as male or female at birth, but are instead highly plastic, changing constantly throughout our lives and influenced by the gendered world in which we live.

The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience that Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain was written in part, she says, to address dubious research, or what is sometimes called neurotrash. Rippon first encountered it in the 2000s. At the time, she was working at the Aston Brain Centre, part of Aston University in Birmingham, UK. Shocked by the misuse of sex and gender reporting in neuroscience, she became set on changing the rhetoric. Rippon is now professor emeritus of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University.

What is neurotrash?

It is what we’d generally call pseudoscience — bringing a kind of scientific legitimacy to an argument.

Early brain images were very seductive, with people thinking, ‘Brilliant, we can find the God spot,’ for instance. Images were hijacked by self-help gurus, relationship counsellors and even those espousing single-sex education. Just adding a picture of the brain in, say, book chapters on why boys and girls are different gave tremendous credibility. Also, the beginning of this century saw ‘neuro’ everything. Just put ‘neuro’ in front for that sexy science-y feel — for example, neuromarketing or neuroaesthetics.

The word neurotrash highlights misleading information: telling stories that might be partly true, sustaining stereotypes and feeding myth continuation, for example about the right brain and left brain. This is the idea that the brain is a ‘game of two halves’, when in fact the whole of your brain is working for you the whole of the time.

These stories were often well written and certainly more accessible than arcane journals. They also resonated with people’s experiences. We believed that men and women were different, and here were the scientists saying ‘you’re right, and this is why’.

How did your own research in the field take shape?

I began my career in the 1980s, and became interested in sex differences in the brain and how different regions could be better configured for various tasks — making me one of the people I subsequently criticized.

When setting up my own laboratory, I had a range of cognitive tests, such as verbal fluency tasks or visuospatial tasks, that would allegedly differentiate men from women reliably. However, over a period of 18 months I frustratingly didn’t find any differences, so became dispirited. The research made me realize that the whole right-brain, left-brain idea is based on very shaky evidence — possibly not something to hang my future research career on. So I stopped doing that sort of work and moved on, becoming involved in dyslexia research.

In 2006, shortly after I’d joined Aston, the engineer Julia King became the university’s first female vice-chancellor. She was interested in the under-representation of women in science, and wanted to know what researchers at Aston were doing that might be relevant to understanding this.

Aware that brain imaging was being used to talk publicly about neuroscience, I reviewed how the field pursued the belief in the male versus the female brain. Horrified by the discipline’s misuse, I wrote a review and started a public conversation.

At the 2010 British Science Festival, I gave a talk about the so-called differences between women’s and men’s brains, showing that, when you look at the data, they’re not that different after all. I was trying to dispel the stereotypical myths that men are ‘left-brained’ — logical, rational and good at spatial tasks — and women are ‘right-brained’ — emotional, nurturing and good at verbal tasks.

We’re not from Mars or Venus (to quote relationship counsellor John Gray’s 1992 book), we’re all from Earth! I assumed that people would thank me and just move on, but it caused an absolute furore and gave me early exposure to media backlash.

One favourite comment (now . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2022 at 11:20 am

Another Path to Intelligence

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Close-up profile photo of large Pacific octopus.

James Bridle writes in Nautilus:

It turns out there are many ways of “doing” intelligence, and this is evident even in the apes and monkeys who perch close to us on the evolutionary tree. This awareness takes on a whole new character when we think about those non-human intelligences which are very different to us. Because there are other highly evolved, intelligent, and boisterous creatures on this planet that are so distant and so different from us that researchers consider them to be the closest things to aliens we have ever encountered: cephalopods.

Cephalopods—the family of creatures which contains octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish—are one of nature’s most intriguing creations. They are all soft-­bodied, containing no skeleton, only a hardened beak. They are aquatic, although they can survive for some time in the air; some are even capable of short flight, propelled by the same jets of water that move them through the ocean. They do strange things with their limbs. And they are highly intelligent, easily the most intel­ligent of the invertebrates, by any measure.

Octopuses in particular seem to enjoy demonstrating their intelli­gence when we try to capture, detain, or study them. In zoos and aquariums they are notorious for their indefatigable and often suc­cessful attempts at escape. A New Zealand octopus named Inky made headlines around the world when he escaped from the National Aquarium in Napier by climbing through his tank’s overflow valve, scampering eight feet across the floor, and sliding down a narrow, 106-­foot drainpipe into the ocean. At another aquarium near Dun­edin, an octopus called Sid made so many escape attempts, including hiding in buckets, opening doors, and climbing stairs, that he was eventually released into the ocean. They’ve also been accused of flood­ing aquariums and stealing fish from other tanks: Such tales go back to some of the first octopuses kept in captivity in Britain in the 19th century and are still being repeated today.

Otto, an octopus living in the Sea­Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, first attracted media attention when he was caught juggling hermit crabs. Another time he smashed rocks against the side of his tank, and from time to time would completely rearrange the contents of his tank “to make it suit his own taste better,” according to the aquar­ium’s director. One time, the electricity in the aquarium kept shorting out, which threatened the lives of other animals as filtration pumps ground to a halt. On the third night of the blackouts, the staff started taking night shifts sleeping on the floor to discover the source of the trouble—and found that Otto was swinging himself to the top of his tank, and squirting water at a low­-hanging bulb that seemed to be annoying him. He’d figured out how to turn the lights off.

Octopuses are no less difficult in the lab. They don’t seem to like  . . .

Continue reading

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20 November 2022 at 8:44 am

Risk of contracting Covid through inhalation vs. touching a contaminated surface

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The risk for Covid infection is 1000 times greater after exposure to airborne virus particles than contact with a contaminated surface. Here’s the study.

Yet stores offer hand sanitizer while customers and staff go unmasked.

It makes you wonder, eh? (And it makes me stay out of stores when I can and always wear a mask when I’m indoors in a public space.)

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2022 at 2:33 pm

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