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Bora’s Picks (February 22nd, 2013)

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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This Is How Your Brain Deals With Google And Facebook Ads by Allison McCann:

Alicia Jenkins is 24 and doesn’t plan on getting married anytime soon. But she says it’s rare that her Facebook feed doesn’t have at least one advertisement for “ethical engagement rings,” wedding dresses, or honeymoon packages — she helped plan her sister’s wedding last fall and just returned from her best friend’s engagement party — so now Alicia has been effectively placed in the wedding registry hell category of Facebook’s advertising partners. …

Testing a tastier tomato by Kate Prengaman:

The best part of the annual AAAS meeting (which I am attending in Boston for the first time) is also the worst part of the meeting– there are SO many awesome, fascinating sessions to pick from, but you can’t attend them all, you have to pick. Selecting this session, however, was easy– I knew I would love “Fixing the Broken Tomato: What We Like and Why We Like It.” The session was led by researchers from the Institute for Plant Innovation at the University of Florida who are studying what makes a tomato delicious. Harry Klee started off explaining the fundamentals of flavor…

Fainting at the sight of blood by Jordan Gaines:

I remember the day so well because the circumstances were so ridiculous. It was my freshman year of high school, the Friday before homecoming weekend. Football players and cheerleaders wore their respective uniforms to class, I had a blue pawprint painted on my face, and everyone in class was antsy in anticipation of the pep rally at the end of the day….

Without a pinch of salt by Rachael Stubbins:

In 2003 the Department of Health and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched a two-pronged attack to reduce salt intake. One part was a multimedia campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers of a high salt diet. This used comical TV adverts such as Sid the Slug. The other was to work with the food industry to cut out added salt in processed foods….

Nuclear Bombs Made It Possible to Carbon Date Human Tissue by Rose Eveleth:

In the 1950s, the world tested a bunch of nuclear bombs, and today we’re still carrying around the evidence—in our muscles. Here’s how that works. Between 1955 and 1963, the use of atomic bombs doubled the amount of carbon-14 in our atmosphere. Carbon-14 exists in the air, and plants breathe it in during photosynthesis. Animals eat those plants; we eat those animals; and carbon-14 winds up in our bodies, incorporated into our tissues. And carbon-14 has a half life—11 years….

Revisiting the Grandmother Hypothesis: Do post-menopausal women deserve the credit for humans’ long life span? by Roni Jacobson:

The Hadza people of northern Tanzania are Africa’s last surviving culture of hunter-gatherers, subsisting mostly on meat, honey, fruit and tubers. In 1985, a team of anthropologists embedded within a band of Hadza foragers noticed that the elderly women in the group were particularly industrious – they spent more time foraging for their families than younger women. The anthropologists concluded that the food the grandmothers gathered contributed to their grandchildren’s survival, thus strengthening the likelihood that their own genetic disposition towards long life would be passed on to future generations….

Genes, beer and psychosis by Jo Poole:

On the last day of my placement the psychiatric consultant told us, jokingly, that her children were banned from alcohol and drugs until at least 25, in light of recent research indicating the brain is still developing until this time….

Lovers’ Hearts Beat At The Same Rate Everyday by Khalil A. Cassimally:

This graph shows something quite wonderful. It shows that in a couple, the heart rates of a man and woman are in sync. Yes, when you’re involved in a romantic relationship, your heart beats as fast as your partner’s. This couple was one of the 32 heterosexual couples in a study conducted by physiologies at UC Davis in the US that aimed to see if people in romantic relationships co-regulated their physiologies with their partners. By co-regulated, read change; by physiologies, read heart rates….

Alcohol and Pregnancy: A “Safe” Mix? by Danielle Taubman:

People tend to freak out about the pregnant lady drinking the small glass of wine at the dinner party. A flood of whispers inevitably fills the room and the next day this “indiscretion” is the talk of the town. But is this a blameworthy issue? Are concerns about a sporadic drink during pregnancy valid?…

Ozone levels linked to cardiac arrest by Kathryn Doyle:

Cardiac arrests are more likely when levels of air pollution – especially soot-like particles and ozone – have been high in recent days or even hours, according to a large study from Texas. Evidence already links airborne particles with heart disease and lung problems but the new findings are the first to show that high ozone may immediately raise the risk that a person’s heart will stop beating…

‘Lightsaber’ Spines Help Strange Shark Ward Off Predators by Douglas Main:

Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil had one simple request: “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.” Velvet belly lantern sharks may not satisfy that demand, but perhaps they’re even better: They come ready-made with glowing spines that look like lightsabers, research shows….

Anti-choice or anti-gender bias? Politicians and activists argue over whether legislation is the right way to curb sex-selective abortions by Naveena Sadasivam:

When Maneesha Kelkar, the director of a South Asian women’s organization in New Jersey, strode into her office one morning in the winter of 2008, she was greeted by a voicemail from Arizona congressman Trent Frank’s office. The friendly voicemail informed her of a bill that Franks was planning to introduce to help curb gender based abortions, and asked for the organization’s support in making it into law. Since this was an issue Kelkar was working on in the South Asian community, she was at first excited about the bill. But then she felt that “something just didn’t seem right at all.”…

What makes you who you are? by Sedeer el-Showk:

“I’m sorry about what happened yesterday. I…I wasn’t myself.” Those words, or something like them, have been offered countless times as an explanation for (mis)behaviour, but what do they actually mean? People seem to have a sense of an intrinsic self, a personality they identify with, and many people are concerned about how outside factors might (like birth control pills) influence this personality or change the way they behave. In this post, I’d like to explore how we construct and define our sense of self, but rather than writing an essay on the subject, I’m hoping to start a discussion about it….

It’s just a flesh wound! by Jon Tennant:

Fossils, as we typically think about them, tell us about the death of an animal. The teeth, bones, shells, fragmented pseudopods and other weird and wonderful bits of carcass all only ever reflect one thing: a permanent geological limbo. These types of fossil are known as body fossils. The other major group of fossils, that are generally less common, less researched, less known about, but arguably more important for guiding our understanding of the history of life on Earth, are trace fossils. The study of trace fossils is called ichnology, and the fossils don’t represent death; they represent life, behaviour, activity. They can paint us a picture of a particular event in time, a scene from a play with ghosts of the actors and decayed fragments of script. We’re the audience and the directors, and we have to fill out the act, using the trace fossils draw the concluding freeze frame….

Monster Goldfish Found in Lake Tahoe by Tanya Lewis:

A new kind of lake monster has been found, in the depths of Lake Tahoe: gigantic goldfish. Researchers trawling the lake for invasive fish species scooped up a goldfish that was nearly 1.5 feet long and 4.2 pounds….

Clinical research: Oxytocin may improve quality of life by Laura Geggel:

People with autism who inhaled regular doses of the hormone oxytocin were better at recognizing others’ emotions and reported a higher quality of life than those who took a placebo, according to a small study published 5 December in Molecular Autism….





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