Friday, September 30, 2016

Learning! Roundup: Tectonic plates, adaptation, mindful detentions, and psychic research

Image Source: NASA
Planet Earth Has a Tectonic Buddy

At least, we aren't the only planet to be tectonically active in our solar system! It looks like Mercury is cooling, shrinking, and forming tectonic plates, just like Earth.

The Adaptive Brain

Our brains are super adaptive, which is part of why we are still alive. This isn't always a sign of brilliance, though. There is a classic experiment wherein a person's brain is easily tricked into thinking that a fake hand is their own hand. The results are kind of hilarious. (That's my best attempt at clickbait.)

Mindful Detention?

A school in the States has begun offering meditation to students who are misbehaving, instead of detention. As a part of an overall holistic living program for the students, they meditate, do yoga, and engage directly with nature. The result? Better attendance and less suspensions. It's not a proper experiment, so we can't say for sure that it's the meditation that's doing it, but it's pretty darn cool to see kids getting on board at Meditation Station.

Psychics versus Psychotics

Recently a team of psychologists at Yale University talked to a group of psychics (although they insist on calling them "psychics", with the scare quotes) and people who claim to hear voices, to better understand those diagnosed with psychosis.

They found that the experience of hearing the voices was very similar across those with and without diagnoses of psychosis, but people in the psychic camp reported the voices to be positive or helpful and controllable.

Here's an interesting quote from the article: "Researchers say the approach may be unusual, but is justified by lack of progress in treating illnesses like schizophrenia." This, and the insistence of using scare quotes around "psychic", reveals the great scientific snobbery towards anything deemed supernatural. Despite the fact that it is an incredibly reasonable and sound investigative practice to talk to people who hear voices when trying to understand people who hear voices, they had to justify it due to their lack of progress treating schizophrenia in any other way.

A Cure for the Common Cold

Researchers may have created a vaccine that will actually prevent the common cold. The problem, of course, with preventing rhinovirus (the cold) is its diversity. They could immunize against one strain, but there were too many others. In the past, they were held up by this issue. In a recent study, however, they simply combined 50 different types of rhinovirus into one vaccine. Lo and behold, the rhesus macaque they tested produced all 50 antibodies in response.




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