Learning! Roundup: Intuitive Magic, Sexy Health, Hurricane-Proof Lizards, and more!

A roundup of research from the past week, including how hard people think different magic spells are and the fact that bungee jumping makes us smarter.
Photo by Artem Maltsev.

Intuitive Magic

I am so overjoyed that this research exists: scientists asked people how hard various magical spells would be to cast, were they possible. Turns out, people pretty much entirely agree on how hard it would be to do different things, based on a sort of intuitive understanding of physics. Conjuring a frog out of nowhere is the hardest thing and changing its colour the easiest. Other items, from harder to easier: making the frog disappear, turning it into a mouse, splitting it in two. I love that people seem to have consistent ideas of how hard magic should be.

Sexy Health

Looks like getting lucky on the regular is really good for your health: it slows down the ageing process, eases daily aches and pains, increases job satisfaction, and boosts immune function. Based on this article, it's unclear if these benefits are related to the act of having sex or having an orgasm - one of which, of course, doesn't actually require a partner. Further research required?

Hurricane-Proof Lizards

After Hurricane Maria hit the island of Dominica in 2017, it turned out that lizard's grip strength had increased ten times. Cool!

Bungee Brain

A piece of conventional wisdom in psychology is that intense emotional experiences interfere with our cognition. However, a new study suggests that this might depend on how we perceive the intense emotions, and if we perceive them positively, they might help enhance our cognition. To test this, they measured the cognitive ability of bungee jumpers (some first-timers, some not) before, immediately after, and some time after they leapt from a plane. Their working memory and decision making improved over the control group of non-jumpers.

Derailment

A continuous sense of self is something that most people have - unless they are depressed. New research adds "derailment", or a sense of disconnection from one's past self, as a piece of the depression puzzle. Whether it's a cause, effect, or both is yet to be determined, but it seems consistent in people with depression so far. Anecdotally, I can say that when I have gone through more intense depressed episodes, I felt like an entirely different person than my "old self".

Abortion and Women's Health

One of the pro-birth arguments against abortion is that it can harm a woman's health. A new study has come out showing that not only does abortion not hurt a woman's body, but being denied an abortion does. In fact, the sad and sobering truth is that in this study, two women who were made to go through with their pregnancies died in the postpartum period, due to pregnancy-related issues. Whatever your stance on abortion is, it's important to remember that childbirth has its own risks.


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