Learning! Roundup: This is Your Brain on Absurdist Art (also, oil-soaking sponges, loneliness, and more!)

A photo of an abstract painted mural that shows the lower half of a woman's face with clouds and fans around it.
Photo by Mr TT.

When Nothing Makes Sense

Have you ever seen the movie Mulholland Drive? Or looked at some absurdist painting that just didn't make any sense? Turns out that under the meaning maintenance model, taking in art like this causes a sensation similar to physical pain in our minds, but then ultimately results in perking up the meaning-maker part of our brain, making greater sense of the world and affirming our identity.

Oil Sponge

I remember in elementary school, our teacher had us do an exercise where we imagined we were in charge of cleaning up an oil spill. How would we do it? One student suggested a giant sponge of some kind. Of course, we were kids and a magical oil-sucking sponge hadn't been invented... UNTIL NOW! Researchers have now developed a large, porous sponge that can suck up oil off of water. I am just going to imagine that my classmate went on a life trajectory that led him to be a member of that team.

Lonely Days

A new global study of loneliness has been done, showing that people are lonelier if they are younger, male, and live in countries that are higher in individualism. There are, of course, some confounding factors, and this study directly contradicts another one that came out recently saying that women were more likely to feel lonely, but there you have it!

Be a Memory Athlete

First of all, did you know memory athletes are REAL THINGS? It's true. People train, practice, and compete at memorizing stuff. They aren't special - or at least, they aren't cognitively special or different from the rest of us. They ARE special in that they devote their time to mastering memory-encoding techniques that any of us could learn and do on a daily basis.

Machine Diagnosis

A new machine learning study analyzed social media posts about COVID symptoms on Chinese social media site Weibo (similar to Twitter). It was able to predict diagnosis rates in regions up to 14 days ahead of official statistics.

Asymptomatic Commons

Remember how COVID confirmed what many people suspected: that cruise ships are travelling incubators of disease? Well, a new study of a group of people stuck on a cruise ship showed that a whopping 80% of those who were infected with COVID had no symptoms at all.

The Receptionist Delivers!
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