Friday, February 10, 2017

Learning! Roundup: Why whales jump, the easy way out, contagious personalities, generational stress, and more

Photo by Zorankovacevic
Why Whales Jump

Personally, I've never really wondered why whales do those sweet jumps - I mean, it just looks like fun - but apparently scientists have asked this question. Sadly, the answer isn't fun. It's practical. The breaching of the water helps them communicate with distant pods when there is too much background noise for vocal signals.

Blood Test for Pancreatic Cancer

A new blood test uses gold nanoparticles to latch onto pancreatic cancer vesicles in blood samples, and it worked! So far it's only been done in small-scale studies. Up next, they will test on larger populations before moving to public screening models. This is very exciting because pancreatic cancer is otherwise almost impossible to detect before it's too late.

Easy Choices

You probably think that your brain will default, when allowed, to a choice that is most pleasurable for you, right? Nope. It actually just defaults to the easiest option, whether or not you will enjoy it. Maybe that's why it's so hard sometimes to get yourself up for a hike or dance class or walk or to do anything besides sitting in front of your computer, even though you know that you'll be way happier doing the activity.

Contagious Personalities

The running wisdom in psychology (and life) is that personality is innate and doesn't change. A new study shows that preschoolers "catch" the personality traits of their peers. Luckily, the more positive traits (like extraversion and working hard) tended to transfer more than negative traits (like anxiety), so parents need not banish their kids from playing with their shy neighbour. (Please don't do that!)

Generational Stress

Your grandparents' stress may be more influential in your life than your own life stressors. This notion, that generational stress can be more impactful on a person's life than their own experience of stress, is hugely important when thinking about things like Aboriginal reconciliation, among other populations that have been systematically oppressed.

The Pain Relief of Looking at Your Own Body

This is surprising to me: looking at your own body has an analgesic effect. So if you're getting a needle, for example, it's worse to look away than to watch it happen. I am a classic "look away and take a deep breath" person when it comes to receiving shots, and I don't know if I can change that habit, but we'll see. Science is science. Even better, though, looking at a VIRTUAL copy of your hand can help relieve pain.

Health Risks of Low Social Rank

Remember back when everyone was obsessed with the obesity epidemic and the health risks of being obese and that gave everyone a "good reason" to start fat shaming everyone? Well, now it turns out that having a low social rank might be worse for your health than being obese. Guess who is to blame for someone's low social rank? US. The people who put them in a lower rank. So shall we turn that public shame around?


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