Science and Tongue Power

January 5, 2016

Escher's_ReptilesDrizzling rain this noon Tuesday on California’s north coast as our now-normal ‘conveyor-belt’ storm fronts keeps the dull gray overcast drenched across the landscape.
Winds are expected to get rowdy later on, the NWS issued a Wind Advisory this morning, calling for gusts at more than 50 mph sometime this evening, and of course, more rain.

Beyond and including the weather, the last few years I’ve developed an unusual interest in scientific research, mostly due to climate change, and its subsequent studies.

(Illustration: M.C.Escher’s ‘Reptiles,‘ found here).

Weird, near-common shit is being explored by research, and last year was a winner (Scientific American): ‘The 2015 science research that set the Internet abuzz included a super antibiotic, plastics pollution in the ocean, climate change, and species extinction, according to Altmetric, a start-up that analyzes online activity surrounding academic papers.’
And life continues on…

Here’s three recent research papers I found noteworthy, beyond the death-rattle of the planet earth.
From yesterday’s Guardian:

Research has identified the tiny chameleon Rhampholeon as having the ultimate high-speed mouthful. When it flicks its tongue at a fly, it reaches peak acceleration 264 times the force of gravity.
But in the course of sticking out its tongue to 2.5 times its own body length, at a peak acceleration of 486 metres per second squared, it generates the highest yet measured acceleration and power output per kilogram of muscle mass of any reptile, bird, or mammal: 14,040 watts per kilogram.
The winner was a tiny reptile 47mm in length.
It was second only to the most powerful vertebrate tongue of all, that of an amphibian, a salamander.
The lesson is that small can outperform big.

And an immediate need for humans and our modern-era of dithering about, a study on mental rest — you only need about 10 minutes a day in a quiet place to keep up with shit.
From New Scientist a couple of weeks ago:

“A lot of people think the brain is a muscle that needs to be continually stimulated, but perhaps that’s not the best way,” says Michaela Dewar at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK.
New memories are fragile.
They need to be consolidated before being committed to long-term storage, a process thought to happen while we sleep.
But at least some consolidation may occur while we’re awake, says Dewar — all you need is a timeout.

Now Dewar, along with Michael Craig at the University of Edinburgh and their colleagues, have found that spatial memories can also be consolidated when we rest.
Volunteers who rested after exploring a virtual-reality environment were 10 per cent more accurate at orientating themselves in relation to virtual landmarks than those who played a game of spot the difference afterwards.
Good news for insomniacs and people with amnesia:
“As long as you’re reasonably relaxed, you might still be experiencing some of the memory-consolidation processes that sleep would normally do,” says Gareth Gaskell at the University of York in the UK.

When Dewar’s team conducted a memory experiment with people who had the condition, they saw more striking results.
“Most of them can’t lead a normal life because they can’t remember what they did 10 minutes ago,” she says – but all showed huge improvements on the memory test when given a break.

Without a break, eight of the 12 were unable to remember anything.
“The findings challenge current theories of memory,” says Dewar.
“It is typically assumed that people with amnesia lose the ability to consolidate memories; they can take in information but it is rapidly gone.”

So all you need is a few minutes of freaking peace — and don’t order food at a restaurant from a fat waiter.
Via PsyPost:

Diners order significantly more food and drink when served by an overweight waiter or waitress, according to a recently published study.
“In a novel approach, we showed that diners can be influenced by their surroundings in general and furthermore by their social interactions in particular,” Tim Döring and Brian Wansink wrote in their study.
“This study suggests that it does not take profound interactions between individuals to alter their eating behavior.”

Or just stay home. Quietly study that awhile…

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