Handshakes’ Purpose Could Be to Send Scent Signals

By Ben Thomas | March 4, 2015 1:20 pm


Shaking a person’s hand is so routine it seems meaningless. But as it turns out, this gesture could be more than a social courtesy: it could be humans’ way of coming into contact with another person’s smells.

Just about every mammal sniffs newcomers to find out who they are and where they’ve been  but for humans, an introductory sniff is clearly taboo. And yet, as a team led by Noam Sobel, Chair of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel has just found, we may sniff out newcomers too  except that we do it on the down-low, by checking out the scents left behind by a handshake.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Lots of Cases of Synesthesia Are Based on Alphabet Magnets

By Carl Engelking | March 4, 2015 12:56 pm

alphabet magnets

They are a ubiquitous childhood toy: alphabet fridge magnets. You may remember some from your own childhood, though they probably weren’t your most beloved of games.

But for some people, especially those growing up in the late 70s or 80s, one particular set left a deep impression — it forever changed the colors they associate with letters. That’s the conclusion of a new study on synesthesia, a condition where sensory stimuli overlap.

The study finds that more than 6 percent of American synesthetes have color associations that match a particular Fisher-Price fridge magnet set. And that finding will force scientists to rethink how synesthesia works. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Math Explains Why Hipsters All Look the Same

By Sarah Scoles | March 4, 2015 9:53 am


The skinny jeans, the progressive politics, the Instagram photos: Hipsters, like goths and punk rockers before them, have become a cliché. And we’ve all become more like them as well.

Now math has shown the reason why. A new mathematical model shows that our collective strivings for individuality end up accomplishing the opposite, even if we’re aiming toward different points of “weird.”

It’s just math, says, Paul Smaldino in a paper just published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. Smaldino created a model of how human behavior adds up into collective conformity, precisely because we want to be individuals. Yet the takeaways contain a morsel of hope for how radical individuals can still change the broader society.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: sociology

Quiz: What’s the Diagnosis?

By Carl Engelking | March 3, 2015 4:14 pm

Credit: ATIC12/Thinkstock

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine

Genetically Speaking, You’re More Like Your Dad

By Carl Engelking | March 3, 2015 1:08 pm


You may have inherited your mother’s eyes, but, genetically speaking, you use more DNA passed down from your father. That’s the conclusion of a new study on mice that researchers say likely applies to all mammals.

We humans get one copy of each gene from mom and one from dad (ignoring those pesky sex chromosomes) that hasn’t changed. The same is true for all mammals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that mom and dad genes are equally active in creating who we are.

Researchers now report that thousands of mouse genes show parent-specific effects, and that on balance, the scales are tipped in favor of dads. Studying whether this imbalance exists in humans could give scientists insights into the causes of inherited conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

What Color Is This Dress? Science Answers

By Lisa Raffensperger | February 27, 2015 10:28 am

It’s Friday on the Internet, and we’re all abuzz with the latest meme  but, happily, for once it’s a meme with some fascinating science behind it.

The question at hand, if you haven’t been asked it already, is what color is this dress, below? The results are remarkably divided. An informal Buzzfeed poll indicates that about 75 percent of people perceive it to be white and gold.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

‘Antifreeze’ Protein, Borrowed From Ticks, Could Battle Frostbite

By Carl Engelking | February 27, 2015 9:44 am


If you live in a cold climate, some days any exposed skin is at risk of frostbite. But if we had antifreeze coursing through our veins, we’d be resistant to winter’s bite.

And that’s not as crazy as it sounds. Scientists have recently demonstrated that mice, genetically engineered to produce an antifreeze protein, are better able to fight off frostbite. Although other animals have this survival skill, it’s the first time it’s been replicated in a mammal. Read More

MORE ABOUT: animals, genes & health

Quiz: Test Your Einstein IQ

By Carl Engelking | February 26, 2015 2:09 pm

Image by 360b / Shutterstock.com

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Just Based on DNA, Scientists Can Construct an Image of Your Face

By Carl Engelking | February 25, 2015 2:02 pm
(Credit: Shriver Claes/Penn State)

(Credit: Shriver Claes/Penn State)

Putting pencil to paper has been the tried-and-true method to illustrate the faces of wanted criminals, but new technology is changing this traditional approach. DNA, rather than an artist’s skill, is an emerging tool to recreate the face behind a crime.

The new forensic technique is called DNA phenotyping. It relies on DNA, found for instance in a drop of blood, to create a simulated face based upon genetic markers. Although the science still has room to grow, start-up companies in the United States are already producing DNA-based sketches to assist police departments in criminal investigations. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: genes & health

X-Rays of Buddhist Statue Reveal Mummified Monk

By Carl Engelking | February 23, 2015 1:51 pm

(Courtesy: Drents Museum)

It’s not surprising that Southeast Asia is home to countless ancient Buddha statues, but when one of those statues contains a mummified monk, that is certainly a surprise.

A mummified monk is exactly what researchers at the Netherland’s Meander Medical Center found when they placed a 1,000-year-old Chinese Buddha statue inside a CT scanner. Researchers believe the statue contains the body of a Buddhist master named Liuquan, who may have practiced the tradition of “self-mummification” to reach his final resting place.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

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