Friday, December 2, 2016

Learning! Roundup: Family traditions, twitter bots, observable evolution, and more!


Family Rituals Boost Happiness

There is new evidence showing that families with rituals or traditions tend to be happier and feel closer to each other. Of course, this is a correlational study, so it could be that families that are closer tend to have more traditions, or that the alien Zorg is sending energy rays to random households that both increase happiness and a propensity to enact collective ritual. However, traditions are nice, and there is some logic to the idea that doing thing together will increase a sense of togetherness.

Something to think about as we get into the holidays, the perfect time to get a tradition going!

Bots Against Racism

Here's a fun and heartening experiment: a researcher decided to try creating Twitter bots to help fight racist rhetoric online. He created four different twitter accounts that were either representative of a white or black user, and that were either high influence (over 500 followers) or low influence (few followers). He then programmed the bots to simply reply to those who used racist language saying something like "Hey man, just remember there are real people you hurt when you harass them with that kind of language."

It worked! Sort of. Some of the time. So the heartening part is that, in some conditions, the person used less racist language following the "reminder" tweet. If the tweet came from a white person (in-group, as the majority of those using this language were white men) with high status, it resulted in a decrease in language use. Unfortunately, when it came from a black person (out-group) with low status, it actually increased the use of racial slurs.

This is a great piece of evidence to show that when allies stand up to their peers, it can make actual change!

Observable Evolution

You know how evolution sounds great and all, but it takes forever and you never get to actually witness it happening and that's a total bummer? Not anymore! Biologists have now been able to observe the evolution of a new species in a laboratory flask. Cool!

Know Your Cephalopods

You know when you look something up and realize you know absolutely NOTHING about it? My friend posted this adorable and informative graphic called "Know Your Cephalopods", and, while I could deduce what a cephalopod probably is from the context, I realized I didn't really know what it meant. Google told me that a cephalopod is "any member of the molluscan class Cephalopoda", forcing me to face more ignorance and look up molluscs, and on it went... Anyways, basically they are invertebrates that live in the water, and cephalopods have symmetrical bodies with prominent heads and tentacles/arms/wavey bits. Like this:

Posted by the American Malacological Society. Artwork by Ketrina Yim.

The Nighttime Thirsties

As someone who HAS to have a glass of water next to the bed while she sleeps (I get so thirsty!) I now feel scientifically validated: new research shows that mice get thirsty before they sleep, to replace fluids that will be lost throughout the night.

Me and the mice, regulating body fluids night and day.

Gender and Class Bias in Hiring

Yep, it's still a thing, and there's more research to show that it's true: men from higher social classes will get more responses from job applications to men with lower social classes or women from any class with identical credentials.


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