Showing posts from April, 2018

Too Many Pictures In Your Young Reader Book Hurts Learning.

Picture overload hinders  children's word learning from storybooks
Less is more when it comes to helping children learn new vocabulary from picture books, according to a new study.  While publishers look to produce ever more colourful and exciting texts to entice buyers, University of Sussex psychologists have shown that having more than one illustration per page results in poorer word learning among pre-schoolers.
The findings, published in Infant and Child Development, present a simple solution to parents and nursery teachers for some of the challenges of pre-school education and could help in the development of learning materials for young children.

Doctoral researcher and co-author Zoe Flack said: "Luckily, children like hearing stories, and adults like reading them to children. But children who are too young to read themselves don't know where to look because they are not following the text. This has a dramatic impact on how well they learn new words from stories."…

Your Hand Strength, Marriage Prospects and Mortality

Get a grip: What your hand strength says about your marriage prospects and mortality
Grip strength is an established measure of health and has previously been linked to one's ability to cope independently  and predicts the risk of cardiovascular diseases and mortality.
Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Columbia Aging Center found men with a stronger grip were more likely to be married than men with weaker grips. Grip strength was not a factor in the marital status of women. The findings are published online in the journal SSM-Population Health.
"Our results hint that women may be favoring partners who signal strength and vigor when they marry," said Vegard Skirbekk, PhD, professor, Columbia Aging Center and Mailman School professor of Population and Family Health. "If longer-lived women marry healthier men, then both may avoid or defer the role of caregiver, while less healthy men remain unmarried and must look elsewhere for…

Selfishness Makes the Brain Lazy; Egoists Don't Think About The Future

So many characters in fiction are egotistical, self-centered and annoying.  An egoist makes a great character to play with, to throw into conflict with others, and to use to drive story. 

This little bit of science shows that egoists have a "lazy brain", that they simply can't think about long term consequences.  Not exactly news, but now it's confirmed by scans.

Here's the story.
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No future for egoists -- that's what their brain says!
Self-centred individuals do not worry about consequences,  believing that these potential disasters are too far off.
With the help of neuro-imaging, researchers at the University of Geneva found that people deemed "egotistical" do not use the area of the brain that enables us to look into and imagine the distant future. In "altruistic" individuals, on the other hand, the same area is alive with activity. 
The research results, published in the journal Cognitive, Affective & Behavioural Neuroscie…

Many Hurricane Harvey Deaths in Houston Occurred Outside a Flood Zone

The big lesson from Hurricane Harvey is that more flood-caused deaths happened outside of recognized 100-year flood plains.

The upshot is if you live in an area susceptible to flooding, do not depend on government issued flood plain maps to evaluate your safety.  It's not that anyone has done anything wrong in estimating flood plains, it's that new data shows we don't fully understand how floods happen.

As one of the researchers said, "It was surprising to me that so many fatalities occurred outside the flood zones."

i.e., there is more research needed to understand these events.
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Hurricane Harvey: Most fatalities occurred  outside flood zones, Dutch-Texan research shows
A Dutch-Texan team found that most Houston-area drowning deaths from Hurricane Harvey occurred outside the zones designated by government as being at higher risk of flooding: the 100- and 500-year floodplains. Harvey, one of the costliest storms in US history, hit southeast Texas on 2…

CRIME: Can Handwriting Experts be Trusted?

Okay, crime writers, here's the latest group of experts whose expertise you can question.  Eye witness testimony is flawed, DNA evidence can and has led to false convictions, and forensic body identification is not as accurate as some would lead you to believe.  Add to this that true crime TV is creating a better educated criminal, and people, especially teenagers can be convinced they committed a crime that never occurred. 

Sounds like we're dealing with humans here, doesn't it.

Here's this latest bit of uncertainty:
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Can estimates from forensic handwriting experts be trusted in court?
"The overall error rate even for experts is large enough as to raise questions about whether their estimates can be sufficiently trustworthy for presentation in courts,"

New study indicates that experts are not 100 per cent adept at assessing how often specific handwriting features occur in the general population.  Forensic handwriting specialists are often called on…

Did the Dinosaurs Create an Industrial Civilization? How Would We Know?

I've wondered what would happen in the world of science if someone found a fossilized jaw from 65+ million year old dinosaur that included a carefully repaired tooth, root canal, cap and all.  Our knowledge of antiquity says that can't be.  But are we sure?

How do we know that ours is the first and only advanced civilization on the planet? 

If you watch shows on archeology such as Time Team (full series on YouTube), you know that manufactured items in steel, iron, bronze and pottery are eroded and rotted away to next to nothing in a few thousand years.

What would be left after a million years?  Or sixty-five plus million years?

And what will be left of our culture in few thousand years?  Supposing we don't survive this next millennium as a species.   There is no guarantee that we will.

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We think we're the first advanced earthlings -- but how do we really know?
Imagine if, many millions of years ago, dinosaurs drove cars through cities of mile-high buildings. …

Why The Bubbles in a Glass of Guinness Sink: The Math of the Perfect Pint.

This is my kind of science.  As a bona fide stool holder with a personalized stein (Jacomus de'Paganus Fatuus) at a popular German tav, I know a good pint when I see one. 

But the question is:  why do the bubbles in a freshly pulled pint of Guinness sink?  No, it's not an optical illusion, and no, you've not imbibed too much when you notice it.

The bubbles do sink.  And it has to do with. . . oops, getting ahead of myself.

Here's the story, which also details how to brew the perfect cup of joe. 

And it's all in the numbers.
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The secret behind a choice cuppa or a perfect pint -- a mathematician
Professor shows how the science of maths can aid the profits of industry
IF you want to know how to pour the perfect pint or create the ultimate cup of coffee, then you really need a mathematician.  That might not be the most obvious choice, but major companies are increasingly aware that they can solve conundrums and improve their products by calling on specialists …

The Science of Being 'Cool'

The secret to being cool: Try smiling
For many people, one of the unspoken rules for being cool is maintaining an emotionally inexpressive attitude. This message is reinforced through advertisements where fashion models rarely smile and by quotes from celebrities. In an article in the Huffington Post, Kanye West said he doesn't smile in photographs because "it just wouldn't look as cool."
Researchers at the University of Arizona recently questioned whether this connection between concealing emotions and coolness was in fact true. In a series of experiments, the investigators showed participants photographs of celebrities and non-celebrities who were smiling or inexpressive, and their results call into question common assumptions about what makes someone cool. The study is available online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

"We found over and over again that people are perceived to be cooler when they smile compared to when they are inexpressive in print adver…

Is Being Human Preventing Us From Finding E.T? Probably.

One of my favorite quotes is by J.B.S. Haldane, the evolutionary biologist and mathematician of the first half of the 20th centuries.  He said,

"Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only  queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."
.Take for example the number of dimensions in which we live.  Physicists will tell you eleven even though our senses only comprehend four.  Does that mean we are incapable of sensing the other seven?  Or comprehending them?  Probably, yes it does.

Or, some physicists assert there are an infinite number of universes.  Fun stuff for writers of SciFi, but is it reality?  I can vaguely imagine a circumstance of one  or two universes, but comprehend an infinite number spontaneously emerging each time one of us makes a decision?  Not even.

Finally, some physicists hypothesize that our reality is a two dimensional projection that appears four dimensional but isn't.  Don't even get into that eleven dimension idea.  A few…

Ancient Humans Give Researchers The Finger

While the modern human dates to perhaps 200,000 years ago somewhere in Africa - new research is pushing back the age of homo sapiens and placing them in different regions of that continent - it is clear that as a species we eventually wandered out of Africa into every habitable piece of land on the planet.

An intriguing question is when, and as this bit of research points out, it was perhaps 90,000 years ago for home sapiens. (Other human predecessors left Africa ages before we existed.)

The one thing we can be sure of is that our course out of Africa was through the Middle East, which explains its historical significance even to today.  The first farming appeared here.  The first permanent settlements appeared here, the first major civilizations appeared here, as did three of our major religions.

Here's one more small fact to add to our understanding of our own history:
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First human migration out of Africa more geographically widespread than previously thought

A SciFi Writer's Dream: Thousands of Black Holes in the Milky Way

Okay, scifi writers and buffs.  Here's the very latest on our very favorite scifi phenom - black holes, just days after the guru of black holes, Stephen Hawking, passed.

Stop me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it just a few short years ago that black holes were theory with no known examples?  Now there's evidence of scads and oodles of mini-black holes circling the big black hole at the center of our own Milky Way.  Oodles as in thousands of them.  Tens of thousands.

Sound like fun?

Here's the report.
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Tens of thousands of black holes may exist in Milky Way's center
A Columbia University-led team of astrophysicists has discovered a dozen black holes gathered around Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. The finding is the first to support a decades-old prediction, opening up myriad opportunities to better understand the universe.
"Everything you'd ever want to learn about the way big black holes i…

A Letter Test You Won't Pass. Which is written correctly?

Now this is seriously fun and interesting.  Despite having seen gazillions of this letter written, very few people can pick out its correct form, and fewer can write it.

How is this?

Read below:
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A letter we've seen millions of times, yet can't write
Most people don't even know that two forms of the letter -- one usually handwritten, the other typeset -- exist. And if they do, they can't write the typeset one we usually see. They can't even pick the correct version of it out of a lineup.
The findings, which suggest the importance writing plays in learning letters, appears in this week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance.

"We think that if we look at something enough, especially if we have to pay attention to its shape as we do during reading, then we would know what it looks like, but our results suggest that's not always the case," said Johns Hopkins cognitive scientist Michael McCloskey, the senio…

An Entirely New View of How the Americas Were Settled.

It's always been assumed that North America was settled from north to south by people crossing from Asia to the Americas via a land bridge.  It's what was taught in school back in the last century when I was an undergrad, and apparently is still taught today.  I was unable to find a map showing this new route.  
The conclusion based on the work of Heather Smith and Ted Geobel - the earliest Americans settled the continent from south to north.
The story follows: *  *  *  *  *
Spear point study offers new explanation of how early humans settled North America
Careful examination of numerous fluted spear points found in Alaska and western Canada prove that the Ice Age peopling of the Americas was much more complex than previously believed, according to a study done by two Texas A&M University researchers.
Heather Smith and Ted Goebel both were involved with the study that was associated with the Center for the Study of the First Americans, part of the Department of Anthropology a…

The Latest Research on Easter, Chocolate Eggs & Bunny Rabbits

In our ongoing efforts to help the common, garden-variety writer stay current with the latest in scientific research as it pertains to content, character and story, we recently stopped by one of our favorite research institutions, the acclaimed University of Northern South Dakota at Hoople.

As always, Deano Goodwhiskey, pictured left, a noted researcher in topics as varied as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia and advanced methodology of procuring lucrative government grants and fellowships without the need to produce anything remotely concrete greeted us with his hand out.

“Yes,” reports professor Goodwhiskey, “a well designed and carefully prepared research grant proposal can lead to years of avoiding real work, perchance even an Ig Nobel Prize if one plays one’s cards right.  After all, if a researcher can be awarded an Ig Nobel for shoving salt pork up his nose to cure nosebleed, I can win one for debunking this rabbits-laying-chocolate-eggs bunkum. Besides, I have long believed that…