April 11, 2010

Science for Sunday 4/11/10

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science."
 ~Edwin Powell Hubble, The Nature of Science, 1954


Motherhood Appears to Protect Against Suicide, Study Finds

"Having children may protect against suicide because children may increase a mother's feelings of self-worth. Children may also provide emotional and material support to a mother and provide her with a positive social role. As well, motherhood may enhance social networks and social support. The finding is in agreement with Durkheim's hypothesis."

 Though I've never seriously considered taking my own life, I do occasionally have periods where I am down.  I know that the biggest thing that keeps me going is my kids.  They can drive me absolutely batty sometimes, but I know that I am a model for them.  I do my best to keep things as normal as possible even when I feel really dark inside.


Moral Judgments Can Be Altered: Neuroscientists Influence People’s Moral Judgments by Disrupting Specific Brain Region

"MIT neuroscientists have shown they can influence people's moral judgments by disrupting a specific brain region -- a finding that helps reveal how the brain constructs morality."
...
"In both experiments, the researchers found that when the right TPJ was disrupted, subjects were more likely to judge failed attempts to harm as morally permissible. Therefore, the researchers believe that TMS interfered with subjects' ability to interpret others' intentions, forcing them to rely more on outcome information to make their judgments."

Fascinating!  My kids tend to think everything is o.k. as long as you don't get caught or no one gets hurt.  I wonder if that part of their brain just isn't mature enough yet.  Heck, I know adults that think that way.


Words Easily Trigger Painful Memories

"As the scientist and his team from the Dept. of Biological and Clinical Psychology could show in a study for the first time it is not only the painful memories and associations that set our pain memory on the alert. "Even verbal stimuli lead to reactions in certain areas of the brain," claims Prof. Weiss. As soon as we hear words like 'tormenting,' 'gruelling' or 'plaguing,' exactly those areas in the brain are being activated which process the corresponding pain."

So maybe talking about the shots before going to the doctor only makes it worse.  I guess that makes sense.  I always imagine something is so much more painful than it actually turns out to be.  Well except for childbirth.  That I remember quite clearly.


Children Use Space to Think About Time

"If time is judged relative to space, do our minds intuitively grasp the same relationship between these dimensions found modern physics? 'Einstein posed a similar question to the child psychologist, Piaget', says Casasanto. 'But it's unlikely that our intuitions about time are shaped by something as counterintuitive as Einstein's Relativity.' Rather, this research shows a different relationship. In the physical world, space and time are theorised to be mutually inseparable. In the mind, however, they are asymmetrically separable. Children can think about space independent of time, but it appears they cannot conceptualise time independent of space."

I don't have anything to add.  That's just interesting.


Cutting Fat -- And Calories -- From Cakes and Frostings

"In experiments at her Peoria laboratory, Singh is formulating low-fat cake mixes and frostings with Fantesk™ -- microdroplets of trans-fat-free cooking oil, encapsulated in cornstarch or wheat flour."

Weird and it looks odd too.  Check out the picture.  It looks like bits of ripped up tissue paper.  

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