Category Archives: Science

Computer Games and Food Cravings Have More in Common Than Once Thought, Study Shows

Summer is fast approaching, and us moms all know what that means — a season of no school and unhealthy eating. Considering that 90% of U.S. households regularly indulge in frozen desserts, it comes as no surprise that ice cream temptation is exceptionally high in the warmer months.

We all know how hard it can be to say no to our child’s plea for some ice cream because let’s be honest, we always want some ourselves. Despite knowing how important it is to start developing healthy eating habits from a young age, frankly, it is easier said than done.

However, there is a new computer game — I know, I know, but bear with me on this one! — that may make our jobs a little bit easier.

Psychologists at the University of Exeter, England have created an interesting game that helps teach children how to make healthy choices. The game is quite easy to play; the child has to press a button when a healthy food pops up on the screen and do nothing when junk food appears. Then, if the child gets it right, a happy face is shown with healthy food and a sad face with unhealthy food as a way to reinforce positive habits and behaviors.

The goal of the game is to change how the brain works. Lucy Porter, the lead researcher on the project, explains to Science Daily how the brain can be trained to create a healthier association with food:

“The sight of foods like chocolate can activate reward centers in the brain at the same time as reducing activity in self-control areas. Our training encourages people to make a new association — when they see unhealthy food, they stop.”

While this game surely won’t limit the number of ads for sugary food out there, it will give families the opportunity to control their cravings, Porter explains. After all, it is a free game and it may give your child satisfaction when they get rewarded with happy faces for choosing healthier foods — it is the little things that matter, right?

So moms, what do you all think? When released, will you try this out with your family?

Study Shows Americans Must Use Green Grocery Bags At Least 50 Times to See Any Environmental Benefits

Sadly, Americans continue to damage the environment in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. One of the more not-so-subtle ways is the fact that, according to The Washington Post, Americans have contributed more to global warming than any other country.
But while many Americans disagree about the extent (and existence) of global warming, some environmental issues are more difficult to deny. Case in point: the millions of plastic bags currently filling up landfills and polluting bodies of water.

Already, plastic bags have contributed to a severe decline in the health of vulnerable ecosystems and increased pollution levels at home and abroad.

That’s because a single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to completely degrade inside a landfill. Even then, these plastic items don’t actually biodegrade; rather, they photo-degrade, meaning they break down into small toxic pieces. When these microplastics leak into bodies of water, they end up causing even more damage in the earth’s oceans by resulting in dangerous bioaccumulation in the food chain.

And when you consider the sheer number of plastic bags used today, it’s easy to see why plastic pollution poses such a great threat. For instance, the Galleria Shopping Center in Houston, Texas is one of the most popular shopping establishments in the entire world, with 35 million visitors annually, but that’s just a single site. If all 35 million annual visitors took just one plastic bag, that’s 35 million bags sitting in landfills for the next 1,000 years.
Fortunately, there are non-profit groups that are doing all they can to reverse this global pollution epidemic. Certain volunteer groups and companies spend hours every day cleaning up landfills and teaching people how to properly dispose of various harmful items like plastic bags.

In addition to these programs, some shoppers are doing their part as well.

According to a report from 2011, but which still holds true today, roughly 86% of consumers will spend more money for a better experience. To inspire eco-conscious shoppers, many stores are now encouraging shoppers to use reusable green grocery bags to help prevent further landfill buildup.

However, as ABC News reports, although these reusable bags are a much better option than plastic bags, they need to be used at least 50 times in order for any environmental benefit to be gained.

“If you’re able to do that over a long time frame, then you’re going to have an environmental advantage,” said Associate Professor Dr. Karli Verghese of the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT.

Grocery stores are perhaps the main culprits in the increased buildup of plastic bags, but clothing stores at malls like the Galleria also play a major role.

“If you have a look at some of the plastic bags that are given out by fashion companies, they’re pretty thick plastics,” Dr. Verghese added. “There’s a lot of focus on the supermarket shopping bag but there’s lots of plastic bags that are given out at lots of other shops.”
Ultimately, to permanently reverse the harm done by plastics, shoppers will have to learn to break their addiction to single-serving shopping bags.

Department of Defense Plans to Use Technology and Brain Implants to Figure Out How Humans Learn

The U.S. Department of Defense is trying to figure out how the human brain works.

As a field agent, it is crucial to learn languages fast. This takes a lot of time and training, and the DoD wants to create a way to make it easier for their agents to do their job.

So, as a means to figure out how the human brain learns foreign languages, the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA) has just given eight elite teams a combined sum of $50 million to discover how the nervous system can facilitate learning.

Scientists and researchers believe that humans learn through all their senses. Studies show that 83% of human learning occurs visually, 11% through hearing, 3.5% via smell, 1.5% with touch, and 1% through taste. With this in mind, DARPA researchers are looking directly to neurotransmitters to see if they hold the answer to all their questions.

All eight teams will work together on a four-year program known as the Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) to search and hone in on the optimal levels of neurostimulation methods that will activate synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity is how the brain synapses strengthen or weaken, and how these patterns create memories and learn new things.

DARPA’s target is pretty optimistic, as they are looking to see a 30% improvement in learning rates compared to their existing training methods. They believe that the expertise of their engineers has the potential to even surpass this goal.

“The Defence Department operates in a complex, interconnected world in which human skills such as communication and analysis are vital, and the Department has long pushed the frontiers of training to maximize those skills. DARPA’s goal with TNT is to further enhance the most effective existing training methods so the men and women of our Armed Forces can operate at their full potential,” says bioengineer and manager of the TNT program Doug Weber, to Science Alert.

DARPA’s electronic device will work in three stages. Their neurostimulation device will activate the peripheral nerves, which then stimulates synaptic plasticity, then neuronal connections are refined as a method to improve a person’s communication skills.

According to Slash Gear, the eight different teams will utilize non-invasive techniques, along with an invasive brain implant, on animals and human volunteers. All side effects will be monitored, including the viewpoint on the ethics of artificial learning.

This impressive innovation may be in part due to the numerous advancements within the circuit board industry. Circuit boards are responsible for connecting electrical signals to the component, and due to recent breakthroughs in the industry, these complex boards can now be made in five days or less, at a 75% faster time than the industry average.

DARPA is quick to point out that despite other similar brain research in the area, they are hoping that they can find out how to naturally advance people’s natural capacities of learning.

How To Avoid A Hole In Your Face Courtesy Of Your Neighborhood Brown Recluse Spider

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*Imagine waking up from a sound sleep the way country singer Meghan Linsey did recently:  with an “awful” stinging pain in her face.

She’d just been bitten by a brown recluse spider. She’d awakened to the little guy dying in her hand.  

Sadly, Linsey did not develop super strength, agility, nor the ability to swing through the city via webs spun from her wrists.  

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“The swelling was the first thing, and then I ended up just having crazy, crazy symptoms,” Linsey said.  “I had muscle spasms, and I had a body rash all over.”

Just over a week later, she developed an open wound at the site of the bite, which she called “a hole on my face.”

That’s what I’d call it too.  This MF took a chunk outta her CHEEK!   Continue reading

This One Ate Fish Every Day For A Year, To Test Health Benefits. Here’s What Happened

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*Pescatarians are a proud bunch.  They love to espouse the benefits of eschewing red meat, pork, and even poultry, with their judgement-filled gazes, and talk about how much better they feel and how much weight they lost eating fish.  One of my editors even talked about the benefits of eating fish when I pitched this story to her.

I say let he who is without sin pass the ketchup for the fries that go really well with my bacon double cheeseburger. Continue reading

Woman Claims Her Fitbit Exploded, Burned Her

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*Wearable tech is increasingly popular these days.  You’ve seen them: those electronic devices strapped to wrists that allegedly guide users to better health and fitness.  They’re supposed to help you, not hurt you, right?  

Dina Mitchell claims she was wearing her Fitbit Flex 2 device when it spontaneously exploded, leaving her with second-degree burns on her wrist.

“It didn’t heat up at first, there was no warning, it just, it burst into flames.  It exploded,” she said.

Mitchell received treatment at an urgent care facility, where a doctor removed pieces of rubber and plastic from her arm! Continue reading

Forget Snakes On A Plane. Sssome Ssseats Are Sssafer Than Others, New Ssstudy Ssshows

isometric airplane and inside details - illustration
isometric airplane and inside details – illustration

*If a new study is to be believed, Samuel Jackson had more to worry about that just a few snakes on his plane.

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A recent study analyzed data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for every commercial plane crash since 1971 that had both survivors and fatalities, and for which a detailed seating chart was accessible.  They’ve determined that some seats, or at least sections of the plane, are safer than others.

And from the looks of their findings, I will be changing my seat on my next flight.

Are you ready for this?

Passengers sitting near the rear of the plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the front. Continue reading

Six Reasons To Spend More Time Naked…As If I Needed Six

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*The Huffington Post recently ran a story outlining the six reasons to spend more time naked.  “No matter your age, marital status, or gender,” they wrote, “it’s still a good idea to spend more time naked.”

Amen to that, I said, and plowed into that article.

However, although they wrote that gender wasn’t an issue, it became clear really quickly that the article was very heavily focused on women, and I felt very strongly that we can’t leave the guys out of this!  So, in the spirit of community service, I’ll give you their reasons for being naked more, and give you the male “take” — or at least the straight / bi male take — on each reason. Continue reading