Category: What’s Inside Your Brain?

Bottoms Up! How the Shape of Your Beer Glass May Make You Drink More

By Sophie Bushwick | September 4, 2012 9:30 am

beer glasses

The shape of your beer glass affects your grip, of course. But it also affects the way that the bubbles in the liquid behave. And now it turns out that beer glass shape can even influence how fast you down your alcoholic beverage.

To see how glass shape affected drinking speed, 160 self-described social drinkers watched a nature documentary while they consumed refreshments from glasses with either straight edges or curved ones. The glasses with curved edges were larger at the top than the bottom, so they held a greater volume in the top half. And researchers found that when drinking beer from these glasses, subjects finished 60 percent faster than drinkers who used straight-sided glasses.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

The Psychological Tricks That Say, "Stay Away From My Seat"

By Sophie Bushwick | August 4, 2012 10:00 am

traveller
“If I pretend to be crazy, nobody will sit next to me!”

Boarding a bus can be a battle. First you have to fight through a line of other passengers, then struggle through a too-tiny aisle, and when you finally collapse into an empty row, the hard part is only beginning. Now you have to defend your extra seat from a horde of sweaty strangers. To learn more about the various tactics that people use to save the next-door seat, one brave sociologist went undercover.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

A Mind-Reading Helmet to Catch Criminals and Enemies! Or Not

By Sophie Bushwick | July 14, 2012 9:07 am

tin foil hat
Someone’s prepared for an interrogation

Can someone peer into your head to see what you’re thinking? Veritas Scientific wants to. But don’t start making a tin foil hat quite yet—the electroencephalogram (EEG) helmet that Veritas is developing won’t actually read your mind. It only detects the brain signals that indicate recognition. The instrument , as large as a motorcycle helmet, blocks out distractions as images flash on the inside of the visor. Meanwhile, metal brushes map the scalp’s electrical activity to detect the subject’s reaction to each one of those images. In particular, a characteristic response called P300 occurs when the brain recognizes an object. This could come in handy for lie detection: If police are interrogating a suspect who claims to know nothing, but he recognizes images of an accomplice, victim, or even crime scene, the helmet would catch his lie. Veritas even suggests that the right slideshow images and questions could help identify an enemy combatant pretending to be an innocent.

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Found: The Cause of Brain Freeze and Ice Cream Headaches

By Sarah Zhang | April 25, 2012 10:52 am

spacing is important
Ow, my anterior cerebral artery!

Next time a bite of ice cream is ruined by brain freeze, you’ll know what to blame. New research suggests that changes in blood flow in the brain—and through the anterior cerebral artery in particular—are correlated with that flash of pain while eating cold food.

In a study presented at the Experimental Biology conference this week in San Diego, researchers got 13 participants to sip ice water through a straw pressed right against the roof of their mouths—prime conditions for brain freeze. Blood flow in their brain was measured using transcranial Doppler as they sipped. At the moment the ice water sippers got brain freeze, the anterior cerebral artery dilated to let blood rush through the brain. When the artery constricted again, the pain also subsided.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
MORE ABOUT: brain freeze, cold

Would People Rather Smack a Baby or Watch a Baby Get Smacked? (With Pictures!)

By Sarah Zhang | March 14, 2012 3:50 pm

spacing is important
Truly one of the strangest figures we’ve ever seen in a paper.

Good news, kids: turns out we humans feel pretty awful about harming other people. That much you’d expect. But there’s a question about exactly what this feeling is: is it more that we feel the victim’s pain, or that we feel especially bad for causing the pain?

Psychologists put this question to the test in a paper called “Simulating murder,” which does, among other things, exactly what the title suggests. They made participants perform a slew of fake violent acts, such as pointing gun at someone’s face or smacking a baby against a desk, and asked partipants to either perform them or watch them being performed. If the victim’s pain was what matters, participants would presumably react the same in both situations.

Instead, participants had higher blood pressure and more constricted blood vessels—indicators of higher stress–when they were the guilty party. The subjects also performed similar but not objectionable physical tasks, like smacking a broom instead of a baby, to make sure simple physical exertion didn’t account for the difference.

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MORE ABOUT: agency, morality, violence

Can a Limb That Never Existed Become a Phantom Limb?

By Sarah Zhang | March 12, 2012 2:59 pm

hand

Our brains sometimes just refuse to believe the truth. No, we’re talking not deniers or conspiracy theorists today—just phantom limbs.

If you ask RN, a 57-year-old woman, she would agree that she does not have a right hand: it was amputated after a bad car crash when she was 18. She would also tell you that she has never had a right index finger: she was born with a congenital deformity that gave her only the rudiment of a thumb, immobile ring and middle fingers, and no index finger at at all. More than 35 years after the amputation, she feels pain in a phantom right hand, which has five—not four—fully mobile fingers.

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What's That in Your Pocket? Is That a Speeeeeech……Jammmm…..

By Sarah Zhang | March 6, 2012 12:06 pm

spacing is important

Who hasn’t suffered a fool who won’t shut up? Suffer no more—Japanese scientists have invented a portable SpeechJammer that they say can get someone to stop talking mid-sentence.

The device described in a paper on arXiv is nothin’ fancy. It’s basically a speaker and a mic that work together to exploit a neat psychological trick: if your speech is played back with a slight delay, it becomes really hard to keep talking. The SpeechJammer works with a delay of 0.2 seconds but anything up to 1.4 seconds (pdf) also works. Because your brain relies on auditory feedback when you speak, the slight, very unnatural delayed feedback screws with the cognitive process.

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Scientists Watch Cars at an Intersection, Make Grand Claims About Greed

By Veronique Greenwood | March 1, 2012 10:54 am

street
The intersection in question.

For two Fridays in June 2011, from 3 to 6 pm, two experimenters sat near an intersection in San Francisco and watched the cars. They arranged themselves so that drivers couldn’t see them, and every now and then, they recorded the make and physical appearance of a car and tried to guess the gender and age of the driver. As their chosen cars pulled up to the intersection, they kept track of which ones cut off others. Later, in another study, they positioned an experimenter at a crosswalk. They took note of which cars neglected to stop for the pedestrian.

No, this is not performance art—it’s science! Read More

Separated at the Cloning Lab: Vint Cerf and Sigmund Freud

By Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor) | February 17, 2012 4:18 pm

One is a father of the Internet. The other is the father of psychoanalysis. They both rocked shiny-bald heads, classy three-piece gray suits, and full, lovingly manicured, white-gray beards. They were born nearly a century apart, but the similarities are simply too striking to overlook.

Clearly, Sigmund Freud and Vint Cerf were created in a cloning lab, in what may well have been an experiment run by the Nobel-bestowing Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to create super-smart scientists with a penchant for fine haberdashery. Is it not obvious to everyone upon looking at photographic evidence?

If you have any leads about other scientists, engineers, or doctors who were separated in the cloning lab, let us know in the comments, @DiscoverMag, or at azeeberg <at> discovermagazine <dot> com.

The Formula for Love, Plus the Best of V-Day Science

By Sarah Zhang | February 14, 2012 3:05 pm

Hey, Internet. It’s science here wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. And we do mean happy—we wouldn’t be here if there weren’t any oxygen in the air right?

Let’s start with a pretty picture. Copy all of the below mathematical function and enter it into Google. Just do it.

sqrt(cos(x))*cos(300x)+sqrt(abs(x))-0.7)*(4-x*x)^0.01,
sqrt(6-x^2), -sqrt(6-x^2) from -4.5 to 4.5

…and links to the best V-Day science out there:

You Can Die of “Broken Heart Syndrome”

That soap opera cliche of someone clutching their chest and kneeling over dead after finding out a dead lover has some science behind it. Sudden shocks—even positive ones like winning the lottery—can cause a massive release of adrenaline, causing the heart to freeze up. The hearts of patients who die from this take on a distinctive shape resembling a Japanese octopus trap, which is where the name takotsubo cardiomyopathy comes from.

Why We Celebrate Valentine’s Day: Naked Romans

Every year on Valentine’s Day, writers dig up the origin of the holiday to talk about naked Romans. Sorry, we’re not immune to it either. Those pagan Romans used to run around naked with whips, hitting young women to increase their fertility. (Seriously? Dinner plans are looking so much better now.) Then, the Church pegged that pagan celebration to the story of St. Valentine, so today we have chocolate and roses and singing valentines. We’re not really sure what those have to do with St. Valentine either.

The Dark Side of the Love Hormone

The “love hormone” oxytocin makes you more empathetic and generous and, as it turns out, also more racist and less trustful. Huh? Ed Yong, who’s covered this before on his blog, writes on the latest hypothesis about oxytocin at New Scientist. Instead of just making us feel cuddly, it helps direct our attention to salient social cues in the environment. And what’s salient, of course, depends on the environment.

Most Popular Breakup Songs According to Facebook

Since Facebook tracks both your relationship status to and what songs you listen to when (among other things), they put it together and released a list of most popular songs when starting new relationships and breaking up. We’re only surprised that Adele doesn’t have a monopoly on the breakup list.

Physical Theories as Women (and Men!)

Oldies but goodies. Two pieces comparing the types of men and women you date with the types of physics you might encounter. Did you know that the derivative of acceleration is called jerk? Just saying some of these remind us of that.

Elsewhere on DISCOVER, you’ve got the hearts of space (love really is universal), animals that don’t have sex (sex is not so universal), and right here on Discoblog’s NCBI ROFL is the Valentine’s week archive. Get lovin’.

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