Tag: perception

What's the Temperature Today? Your Answer Depends on Your Political Beliefs

By Sophie Bushwick | July 21, 2012 9:00 am

spacing is important

Have you noticed that it’s been hotter than usual lately? Your answer might reveal your ideology.

Now, it’s old news that American acceptance of global climate change is closely linked to political affiliation: As of 2011, 77 percent of Democrats thought the Earth was getting warmer, but only 43 percent of Republicans agreed. We also already knew that when it gets hotter, more people of both affiliations say the Earth is warming.

But it isn’t necessarily a one-way street. A new study flips it around: Researchers have found that ideology can skew how people perceive local temperature trends. In other words, your answer to “Has it been hotter lately?” can reveal whether you’re an individualist or more community oriented.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Mind & Brain

The Smells of Space: Burned Steak, Gunpowder, Raspberries

By Veronique Greenwood | July 19, 2012 12:09 pm

space
Space!

You’ll never get to take a deep breath and smell the roses in Earth’s orbit. The distinct lack of air there means you’d die a gruesome death sans space helmet, probably without smelling a thing.

Ah, but what about once you get back in your ship? As many places around the Web have been discussing recently, astronauts have said that upon coming back from space walks and taking off their gear, a certain specific scent seems to hang in the air…some think it smells like charred steak, or maybe like something metallic.

Here’s how astronaut Don Pettit put it nearly ten years ago:

Each time, when I repressed the airlock, opened the hatch and welcomed two tired workers inside, a peculiar odor tickled my olfactory senses. At first I couldn’t quite place it. It must have come from the air ducts that re-pressed the compartment. Then I noticed that this smell was on their suit, helmet, gloves, and tools. It was more pronounced on fabrics than on metal or plastic surfaces. It is hard to describe this smell; it is definitely not the olfactory equivalent to describing the palette sensations of some new food as “tastes like chicken.” The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation. It reminded me of my college summers where I labored for many hours with an arc welding torch repairing heavy equipment for a small logging outfit. It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes. That is the smell of space.

What sounds like a similar smell—astronauts describe it as something like gunpowder—also emanates from moondust.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Space

The Super-Seers Who Live Among Us

By Veronique Greenwood | June 18, 2012 11:18 am

colors

The ancestors of modern humans developed color vision 30 million years ago. But it was not until the late 1700s that there are records of anyone seeing colors in an unusual way. English chemist John Dalton, who found that people thought he was joking when he asked whether a geranium flower was blue or pink, wrote a description in 1794 of what he saw for the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society journal: His world was suffused by shades of blue and yellow, but contained none of the mysterious sensation known as red. “That part of the image which others call red,” he wrote, “appears to me little more than a shade or defect of light.” It was one of the first mentions of colorblindness in human history.

In the centuries since, we have discovered what it is that robs some people of such sensations. Those of us with standard vision, called trichromats, have three kinds of pigments, or cones, in our retinae, each sensitive to a certain range of light and spaced out across the visible spectrum so that they can together convey to the brain everything from red to violet. In the colorblind, a mutated cone is so close to another in sensitivity that parts of the spectrum aren’t covered, or there are only two functioning cones, a condition called dichromacy. A difference of one cone causes a serious change in the number of discernable colors: Dichromats see on the order of 10,000 colors, trichromats on the order of a million. But that isn’t the end of the story. Recently, as genetic analyses and tests of color vision have grown more sophisticated, we are stumbling into one of the most curious discoveries in vision since Dalton’s day. Dichromats have 2 cones, trichromats have 3, tetrachromats have 4, making them theoretically capable of seeing 100 million colors.

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Today's Best Science: Mercury Orbiting, Toxin-Sucking Bananas, Language Colors Perception

By Patrick Morgan | March 16, 2011 10:28 pm
  • Orbit time! Launched in 2004, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will this Friday become the first probe to orbit Mercury—potentially uncovering polar ice or explaining why the planet is oddly dense.
  • Older AND wiser: When scientists played recordings of lion roars for elephants, they discovered that the oldest female elephants were the most sensitive, and even discerned the calls of lions from lionesses.
  • Health experts say that this year’s cholera epidemic in Haiti could affect double the UN’s prediction of 400,000 people. The UN’s “crude” predictions assumed only a certain percentage of the population would be affected, whereas the new estimate takes water supplies and immunity into consideration.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: News Roundup
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