Learning! Roundup: Self-cannibalizing brains, plastic-eating microbes, virtual reality and autism, and more!

Learning! Roundup includes self-cannibalizing brains, microbes that eat plastics in the ocean, autism research using virtual reality, and plan b discriminates against heavier women.

Sleep Deprived Brains Eat Themselves

If you experience chronic sleep deprivation, you might be at greater risk for dementia later in life. Turns out that a sleep-deprived brain goes into a sort of super-cleaning mode: the cells that destroy and digest worn out cells ramp into overdrive. In the short-term, this helps a tired mind focus. In the long-term, well, I'd like to have more buffer cells in my brain when I get old.

Plastic-Eating Microbes

Evolution saves the day again! New microbes may be breaking down plastics in the ocean. How do we know? Basically, humans are so terrible at living on this planet that if there weren't microbes breaking down plastics in the ocean the ocean would just be a bunch of soggy plastic bags with a little water mixed in. Since it's the other way around (there is about 1/10 to 1/100 the amount of plastic in the ocean that there should be from our use), nature has got to be doing something with it.

Virtual Reality Tests for Autism

New research is emerging on autism using virtual reality to simulate social situations and better understand what is actually going on, with the potential for new treatment options.

PSA: Plan B Doesn't Work for the Average Woman

Did you know that Plan B only works for women who are under 176 pounds? I didn't.

Compassion, Hatred, and Religion

As someone who grew up in a firmly religious culture, I have seen both the beautiful and the terrible sides of the whole endeavour. New research has come out showing how religion can both lend itself to compassion and hatred. Essentially, genuine piety breeds compassion, but group rituals can create a sense of identity that breeds hatred for "outsiders".

Seismic Nowcasting

In Vancouver, we've been talking about "The Big One" for my entire life. Right on the Ring of Fire, we have been strangely exempt from major earthquakes for far too long and basically could get hit anywhere between right now and 100 years from now with something that levels the city. So... I'm all for ANYTHING that could give me a few extra seconds to dive into a door frame. Nowcasting uses economic and financial models to predict earthquakes, based on smaller tremors in the area.

How to Talk to Muslims During Ramadan

The CBC recently released an article from a Muslim Canadian explaining some of the finer points of Ramadan and how to talk to a Muslim who is observing. As someone who knows far less than she'd like to about Muslim faith and practice, I found this interesting. Also, the advice basically boils down to "you can still eat your food, don't be a jerk, and feel free to ask questions."

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