Category Archives: Facts

Phobias Might Be Memories Passed Down From Ancestors In Your DNA

Memories may be passed down through generations in DNA in a process that may be the underlying cause of phobias.

Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop.

Scientists have long assumed that memories and learned experiences built up during a lifetime must be passed on by teaching later generations or through personal experience.

However, new research has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA.

Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations.

The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.

So a fear of spiders may in fact be an inherited defence mechanism laid down in a families genes by an ancestors’ frightening encounter with an arachnid.

Dr Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said: “We have begun to explore an underappreciated influence on adult behaviour – ancestral experience before conception.

“From a translational perspective, our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.

“Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

See full articles from Telegraph 

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Making Electricity From Urine

Scientists have developed a way to convert urine in to a renewable energy source. But as Sally Magnusson, author of Life of Pee and presenter of Radio 4’s Secret Science of Pee, writes in this viewpoint feature, there is some way to go before the idea is embraced more widely.

A growing number of scientists have cottoned on to the fact that urine is a source of vital enzymes for medicine, precious minerals like fast-depleting phosphorus, and chemical compounds like urea, which are crucial to the manufacture of fertilisers, plastics and cosmetics and can also be used to make electricity.

The question is, can urine help us? And if so, can we see it not as a useless, embarrassing waste product, but as a substance that could drive the next stage of the green revolution?

I started out mildly intrigued by the range of uses urine had in centuries gone by – it was used in the manufacture of gunpowder, alum, dyes, paint and stained glass, to clean Roman togas, and heal wounds.

I wrestled with the revulsion that arises when we move from historical curiosity to envisaging personal application, but I ended up convinced there is an urgent role for urine again in the 21st Century, based on its unique scientific properties.

Urea, an important constituent of urine, is the key to many modern applications.

At Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, the Youtricity research team has developed a urine-powered system to generate electricity.

The carbamide power system runs on urea fuel cells sourced from human urine.

Dr Shanwen Tao, who invented the technology, said urea fuel cells were similar to hydrogen fuel cells, but used urea instead.

His colleague, Dr Robert Goodfellow said it had been a “huge” breakthrough in the search for renewable energy, but the system was being further developed.

See the full article from BBC News

 

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Spending Money On Others Makes You Happier

In their book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, authors Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton draw on years of quantitative and qualitative research to explain how money can buy happiness, but only if we spend it in certain ways.

The key lies in adhering to five key principles: Buy Experiences (research shows that material purchases are less satisfying than vacations or concerts);Make it a Treat (limiting access to our favorite things will make us keep appreciating them); Buy Time (focusing on time over money yields wiser purchases); Pay Now, Consume Later (delayed consumption leads to increased enjoyment); and Invest in Others (spending money on other people makes us happier than spending it on ourselves).

Recently we featured a video illustrating the emotional benefits of buying experiences. In the following sequel, Norton again gives some cash to two women in Harvard Square. The catch this time: Each of them must spend the money on someone else.

“We’ve shown in our research that giving money to others actually does make people happier,” says Norton, an associate professor of marketing at Harvard Business School. “One of the reasons is that it creates social connections. If you have a nice car and a big house on an island by yourself, you’re not going to be happy because we need people to be happy. But by giving to another person, you’re…creating a connection and a conversation with that person, and those things are really good for happiness.”

Watch the video to find out how the women in Harvard Square chose to invest in others—and whether it made them happier!

Full Article from Forbes.com

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You Can Make Diamonds Out Of Tequila!

Tequila , lime and saltTequila may be just another drink to those out in the town, but to a team of scientists in Mexico their country’s native alcohol turned out to be a gem; a diamond, to be precise. Javier Morales, Luis Apátiga and Victor Castaño at the National Autonomous University of Mexico made the alchemist-worthy discovery while experimenting turning various organic solutions, such as acetone and ethanol, into diamonds. The scientists noted that 80-proof tequila (40 percent alcohol) had the ideal proportion of ethanol to water to create diamond films. In order to make the diamonds, they evaporated the tequila into a vapor, and then heated the vapor above 1400 degrees Fahrenheit before depositing it on silicon or stainless steel trays. The resulting diamond films were between 100 to 400 nm in diameter and free of impurities.

Hard and heat resistant, the diamond films could have several commercial applications, such as for cutting tools and optical electronic devices. At the moment, the team is looking into creating diamonds with impurities for potential use as a new kind of semiconductor. The scientists have bigger plans in sight, too: They intend to turn their work into an industrial-scale venture by 2011 and hope to find a tequila distiller to provide them with the supplies.

[via PopSci]

 

 

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Animal Facts So Cute, They Cheered Selena Gomez Up

Here’s a list of facts that were just so cute, they made Selena Gomez stop crying.

1. A newborn panda weighs as much as a cup of tea.

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Selena cries.

2. Squirrels will adopt an abandoned baby if its parents are gone.

Selena cries some more.

3. Honey bees communicate by dancing.

Selena stops crying for a moment. 

4. Gentoo penguins propose to their mates with a pebble.

Selena starts to see a bright side.

5. Seahorses mate for life, and when they travel they hold each other’s tails.

Selena cracks a smile.

6. Sea otters hold hands when they sleep, so they don’t float away from each other.

This one makes Selena very happy.

7. Cows have best friends and they spend most of their time together.

Selena laughs hard at this because she can’t believe it. 

8. Turtles can breathe through their butts.

Selena’s shocked. 

9. Spiders can’t fly.

Selena is happy because, let’s be honest… No one likes a flying spider. 

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Ten Facts That Sound Like Lies, But Are Completely True

Facts that sound like lies, but are completely true… Accompanied by Britney Spears GIFs.

1. When you get a kidney transplant, your kidneys are usually left in your body and a 3rd one is put in your pelvis.

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And yes, if you know someone who has had two kidney transplants, they can totally have 4 kidneys. 

2. Cosmic rays from outer space frequently cause glitches in your electronics.

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Your cars and phones are not safe. 

3. Your eyes have a pretty large blind spot that your brain is just filling with what it “thinks” you should be seeing.

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Yes, your brain loves to mess with you. 

4. Falling coconuts kill more people every year than sharks.

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Coconuts… you just don’t see them coming. 

5. Humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas.

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Bananas… they’re closer to us than we thought. 

6. Strawberries aren’t really berries… But avocados are.

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Your life is a lie

7. Cleopatra lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid.

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Your life is still a lie.

8. It rains diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter.

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You’re living on the wrong planet. 

9. There once existed a flying reptile that was the size of a giraffe.

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They’re extinct now so if you had no reason to be happy today, now you have one.

10. If you have 23 people in a room, there’s a 50% chance two of them have the same birthday

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But there’s a 100% chance that your birthday will be more important than theirs.

 

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4 Mind-Blowing Facts for Star Wars Fans (and a chance to WIN some cool Star Wars gear)

It’s not quite May the Fourth yet, but since we’re giving away some sweet Star Wars™ First Edition STREET by 50 On-Ear Headphones… we’ve got some fun facts from a galaxy far, far away. Don’t worry – none of them have anything to do with Jar Jar.

A Schizophrenic Galactic Empire?

star wars facts memeDid you know Darth Vader was played by a total of six actors on screen? If not, I find your lack of knowledge disturbing.

In the original three films, bodybuilder David Prowse played Darth Vader, while stunt performer Bob Anderson did the lightsaber action scenes.

Actor James Earl Jones provided the famous voice. Sebastian Shaw played Darth Vader unmasked in Return of the Jedi. In the more recent films, Jake Lloyd portrayed young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, followed by Hayden Christensen in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. So, which one is Luke’s father?

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Rebel Alliance and an Alias

Luke Skywalker went through multiple changes in George Lucas’s early drafts of the script. Originally intending Luke to be female, Lucas also toyed with portraying him as a grizzled old general.

In fact, Luke’s last name was almost “Starkiller” before a last minute change. Which is good, because “Starkiller” just doesn’t seem to suit our protagonist.

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The Truth About the Elusive Boba Fett

Although the mysterious bounty hunter gained cult status and was ranked #79 in Empire Magazine’s 100 Greatest Movie Characters, Boba Fett only has four lines in the Star Wars films. 

Catch all of the lines here, in less than 30 seconds:

George Lucas even admitted that had he known the Mandalorian would become so popular, he would have given him a more dignified death scene. Oh well, Boba Fett’s still a badass.

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Seriously, Stormtroopers…

Though notoriously bad at aiming, Stormtroopers look freakin’ cool. So much so that there’s an international fan-based organization dedicated to Stormtrooper costumes called the 501st Legion. In its 17th year and 6,500 members strong, the group got an homage in Revenge of the Sith; the legion of blue clone troopers led by Darth Vader into the Jedi Temple was designated the 501st. It pays to be a fan.

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How about you? What’s the craziest Star Wars™ trivia you’ve ever heard?

 

 

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Humans Find Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Data

FPQPNS0H9T4LUWE.LARGEWhy do people see faces in nature, interpret window stains as human figures, hear voices in random sounds generated by electronic devices or find conspiracies in the daily news? A proximate cause is the priming effect, in which our brain and senses are prepared to interpret stimuli according to an expected model. UFOlogists see a face on Mars. Religionists see the Virgin Mary on the side of a building. Paranormalists hear dead people speaking to them through a radio receiver. Conspiracy theorists think 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration. Is there a deeper ultimate cause for why people believe such weird things? There is. I call it “patternicity,” or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.

Traditionally, scientists have treated patternicity as an error in cognition. A type I error, or a false positive, is believing something is real when it is not (finding a nonexistent pattern). A type II error, or a false negative, is not believing something is real when it is (not recognizing a real pattern—call it “apat­ternicity”). In my 2000 book How We Believe (Times Books), I argue that our brains are belief engines: evolved pattern-recognition machines that connect the dots and create meaning out of the patterns that we think we see in nature. Sometimes A really is connected to B; sometimes it is not. When it is, we have learned something valuable about the environment from which we can make predictions that aid in survival and reproduction. We are the ancestors of those most successful at finding patterns. This process is called association learning, and it is fundamental to all animal behavior, from the humble worm C. elegans to H. sapiens.

Unfortunately, we did not evolve a Baloney Detection Network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns. We have no error-detection governor to modulate the pattern-recognition engine. (Thus the need for science with its self-correcting mechanisms of replication and peer review.) But such erroneous cognition is not likely to remove us from the gene pool and would therefore not have been selected against by evolution.

(Read more from Scientific American)

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