Science!: Gambling, Beer Bones and Wind Tunnels


Girls Process Jokes Differently Than Men

She who laughs last, thinks slowest. Wrong. She who laughs last, thinks differently. Though it’s true that laughing last sometimes means that it has taken longer for someone to process a joke, for women it also means two other things: 1. Their expectations of the joke are higher and 2. When they finally do laugh, they get more pleasure out of the joke than men do.

Ten men and ten women were given black and white cartoons and asked to rate them on a “funniness scale.” As they doled out the scores, their brains were scanned and mapped to see which parts of their brains lit up and how long it took for their brain to respond to a joke.

As it turns out, women tend to use the pre-frontal cortex more when deciphering a joke. The pre-frontal cortex is a part of the brain which helps to decode language and screen out any irrelevancies within the joke experience.

“Our findings fit the stereotype of how men and women react to humor,” states Allan Reiss, a professor at Stanford University at California. “We found greater activity in the pre-frontal cortex in women, indicating women are processing stimuli that involve language areas of the brain. The interpretation of that finding is that women tend to respond more to narrative and wordplay than slapstick.”

Analysis of the nucleus accumbens, deemed the “feelgood” part of the brain, also shows how men and women have different attitudes towards humor. Frankly, women aren’t expecting a decent punchline in a cartoon, so when one actually made them giggle, they were more pleased by the joke than boys. Compare this to men, who expected the cartoon to be funny from the get-go and were less likely to spot a dud joke than women.

So, keep that in mind, fellas. When trying to impress a lady, avoid the dainty one-liners. Engage them in a story, and then surprise them with an unexpected punchline. Then, just give them a second or two to think about it.

Source: Daily Mail

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Beer Builds Better Bones

Beer may be part of a healthy, balanced diet. As it turns out, beer is rich in silicon, which the body requires to keep bones and connective tissues healthy. I for one spurn the idea of getting my daily dosage of silicon from oats, barley and rice, fruits and vegetables, or any other “healthy” comestibles.

The lucky researchers at the University of California tested 100 commercial beers for their silicon content and found that the silicon found in beer had 50% bioavailability, meaning that out of every 100g of silicon you ingest, about 50g of it would make it into your system and be put to proper use.

“We already knew that beer was likely to contain the highest source of silicon per serving because its manufacture uses the husk of the grain, where the silicon is contained,” explains Johnathan Powell, the lead author of a similar study published in 2004. “Now we have confirmed that beer is a readily available source of silicon. Unlike some other high-silicon foods, the silicon in beer is readily absorbed because it exists as a soluble silicate.” Based off of this research, a diet of beer in moderation may help fight osteoporosis. Good to know.

Source: Science Daily



To Deter Predators, Dry Up and Fly Away

Bdelloid rotifers, the sex-spurning invertebrates I’ve described before, should have gone extinct a long time ago. When you avoid sexual reproduction, you become a part of what’s known as the Red Queen Hypothesis: “If an organism stops having sex and crystallizes its genome, all of [its enemies] catch up with it evolutionarily and can quickly overwhelm it,” states Paul Sherman, a Cornell professor of neurobiology and behavior.

Despite this threat, bdelloid rotifers have survived without sex for 30 million years and have produced nearly 450 different species worldwide. Compare that success story to the nematode – another asexual creature that’s slated to go extinct in a mere hundred thousand years. So, what makes bdelloid rotifers so special? How have they managed to avoid the specter of extinction? They just dry up and just ride the winds, man.

Desiccation is a highly unappealing state for organisms. Cells depend on the constant ebb and flow of solutes, water and waste in order to survive. When an animal dries up, it mimics a simple kind of death: Metabolic procedures stop completely, the animal is completely and totally non-functioning. Think of it as a miniaturized form of cryostasis. Rotifers can only become desiccated when there is a lack of water in their environment – but when there is, they can use it as a form of protection. Otherwise, they’re on their own.

To begin their study on the way rotifers thrive, Paul Sherman and Chris Wilson, lead author and Cornell doctorial candidate first wanted to see what kind of natural defenses rotifers had in an aqueous environment. The team introduced a thriving colony of bdelloid rotifers to their arch nemesis: fungi. Even the tiniest threat of fungi can destroy a colony of bdelloid rotifers within weeks. Since the environment was kept wet, the rotifers were not able to dessicate and were quickly decimated.

The next experiment tested rotifer defenses when the environmental conditions were dehydrated. Fungi can’t withstand dehydration for too long, so the rotifers simply dessicated and waited out the dry spell. Once a freshwater source was reintroduced into the system, rotifers ingested the liquid, left their desiccated state and went about their merry, fungi-free lives.

The last experiment tested the rotifers within dehydrated conditions with wind available. When rotifers were placed inside a wind chamber, Wilson and Sherman found that the rotifers dried up and simply rode the wind away from the fungi to safer locales. After seven straight days of riding the wind, the fungi-free rotifer colonies were more established than colonies without the use of wind to aid in their great escape.

“These animals are essentially playing an evolutionary game of hide and seek,” explains Sherman. “They can drift on the wind to colonize parasite-free habitat patches where they can reproduce rapidly and depart again before their enemies catch up. This effectively enables them to evade biotic enemies without sex, using mechanisms that no other known animals can duplicate.”

However, there are still mysteries that need to be solved. Bdelloid rotifers may have the upper hand when their environment is dehydrated, but what if they’re surrounded by water? How do they avoid parasites and fungi when their main mode of protection is rendered absolutely useless?

Sources: Science Daily, National Geographic, Science Mag



Risky Gamblers May Have Their Brain to Blame

I don’t remember which reality TV show it was, but I clearly recall watching a lady in her mid-twenties placing bets at a blackjack table. She had already lost nearly 50,000 dollars and had a friend waiting to pick her up outside of the casino. But she still had 20,000 dollars more to spend, and she wasn’t going anywhere until she had gambled it all. She lost all her money. I remember thinking there must be something seriously wrong with her.

As it turns out, there probably was. There’s a newly discovered and rare genetic disorder that makes people less troubled over losing money and other valuable items. A part of the brain called the amygdala controls the arousal of fear and anxiety, both helpful emotions to listen to when you’re about to bet away the rest of your money. These dual feelings tell you to slow down, to stop and to avoid risk. The fancy, scientific word for this is “loss aversion,” and if your amygdala is happy and healthy, you’ll experience a healthy aversion to losing something of value.

“It may be that our amygdale controls a very general biological mechanism for inhibiting risky behavior when outcomes are potentially negative, such as the monetary loss aversion which shapes our everyday financial decisions,” explains Dr. Benedetto De Martino, a researcher at the University College London.

The study involved two women with a lesion in their amygdala, a 43 year old who had left school at 18, and a 23 year old who had just finished college. Each woman was given a $50 bill and invited to partake in a very special gambling session, where the odds were the same as a coin flip – about 50/50. A variety of bets were offered, such as “win $5 or lose $20,” “win $50 or lose $20,” and “win $20 and lose $15.”

Placed in this situation, most people would take the money and run. There’s no skill involved in this situation, and they’re just as likely to lose money as to win it. However, both women gambled without any hesitation.

In his blog The Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer explains the concept of loss aversion in even more depth. It appears that people with “normal” loss aversion levels fear loss so much that they will avoid it any costs. A prime example is the well-known advice of trading in your stocks when they’re doing well, while keeping the ones that are depreciating in value. It is a backwards notion: Why fill your stock portfolio with failing, or even neutral stocks, when you can keep the ones that are prospering? “Why do investors do this?” asks Lehrer, “because they are afraid to take a loss-it feels bad – and selling shares that have decreased in value makes the loss tangible. We try to postpone the pain for as long as possible. The end result is more losses.”

Thanks for the link, SharedProphet

Sources:, Science Daily


Lauren Admire wants a bdelloid rotifer as a pet.

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