May 17, 2010

Science for Sunday 5/16/10

"Science increases our power in proportion as it lowers our pride."
-Claude Bernard

Organic Snackers Underestimate Calories, Study Shows

"An organic label gives a food a 'health halo,' said coauthor, Brian Wansink, Cornell professor and author of the book, Marketing Nutrition.

At this point, I am reading all the labels of any food I buy, regardless of how it's marketed. It's still a good reminder that anything that even needs a label shouldn't be your first choice. The healthiest foods are the ones no one tries to pimp.

Canadians Lead Longer, Healthier Lives Than Americans

"Canada and the US share a common border and enjoy very similar standards of living, yet life expectancy in Canada is higher than in the US. There are two distinct potential explanations for the gap: differences in access to health care and in the prevalence of poverty."

Not a shocking study. Hopefully our health care system is changing for the better. The so-called "American Dream" is probably going to be harder to fix. It's a mindset, and I don't think it's been proven true. Life isn't fair. What goes around does not come around, and hard work doesn't always pay off. We need to stop blaming poor people for being poor and start taking care of each other.

Peppers May Increase Energy Expenditure in People Trying to Lose Weight

But scientists are learning there is more than meets the eye (or should we say taste buds) when it comes to peppers. In fact, there is growing evidence that the body-heat-generating power of peppers might even lend a hand in our quest to lose those extra inches accumulating around our collective national waistline. And fortunately for those of us who don't appreciate the "burn" of hot peppers, there are plants that make a non-burning version of capsaicin called dihydrocapsiate (DCT) that could have the benefits of peppers without the pungency.

Good news for B, who loves hot peppers. The study was pretty small, but I'll try to non-hot peppers if it will help burn some calories!

Poor Quality Teachers May Prevent Children from Reaching Reading Potential, Study Finds

"Putting high quality teachers in the classroom will not eliminate variability among students nor guarantee equally high achievement from all children, but ignoring teachers as a salient contributor to the classroom environment represents a missed opportunity to promote children's potential in school and their success in life," the researchers concluded.

As a homeschooling family, this doesn't really affect us. However, I think I will always feel a bit of guilt that I didn't read to Robotson when he was younger. I feel like I held him back. I try to make up for it everyday by having plenty of books around, reading to him and the girls daily, and reading myself.

The Art of Mindreading: Empathy or Rational Inference?

"The study corroborates the notion that cognitive and affective Theory of Mind are functionally independent and that these subcomponents are mediated by at least partly different neural pathways," notes Prof. Kalbe. Although the distinction between these two aspects of "mindreading" had already been made, the brain pathways for rational inference processes had not been well understood previously.

So is there a "problem" with the neural pathway for empathy in people with Asperger's? Interesting stuff about the brain. I'll have to see if there are any similar studies.

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