Monthly Archive: December 2015

The Prisoners’ Dilemma Tested On Real Prisoners

The prisoner’s dilemma presents two people who can’t communicate with a complicated test of how well people can work together and how much faith a person has in the idea that another will make a choice that will be mutually beneficial. It was only recently that University of Hamburg researchers put the scenario to the test with actual prisoners, pitting them against a group of students to see who was more likely to choose the route that would be mutually beneficial to both. In the end, the prisoners were about twice as likely to go the good route as the students were.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Happens In Summer, Too

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is something that we mainly associate with the long winter months and the lack of sunshine. Those long, dark days can make us feel depressed and irritable and leave us with no energy whatsoever. In some cases, it’s so severe it’s treated with medication. Even though it’s usually associated with the time of the year when the Sun only makes short appearances and the nights are longer than the days, it can happen to people in the summer, too. The symptoms are somewhat similar, with both suffering from depression while the winter version is associated with sleeping too much and the summer version with sleeping too little.

The Infamous ‘Heidi’ Game

In 1968, the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets were playing a particularly intense game when disaster struck. Since the game was running into overtime, NBC decided to cut to Heidi just moments before the climactic finale. Football fans across the nation freaked out, and the resulting outcry changed the way TV stations do business.

The Science Behind Why Some People Harm Themselves

Inflicting pain to feel better seems like a complete contradiction to many people. But studies on the practice of self-harm have found that in those that do practice non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) there’s a correlation between the application of physical pain and a lessening of activity in the parts of the brain that govern negative emotions. Others tap into something a little different—the relief that they feel when the pain of their injury is removed. It’s pain they can control, and that’s what makes it attractive.

Finding Out What Space Smells Like

When astronauts were asked to report on the smell of space, they were actually talking about the smell that followed them back inside on their suits. Space, they said, smells like gunpowder, burnt steak, hot metal, or welding fumes, mostly because of the molecules put off by countless dying stars. Not all space smells the same. So far, scientists have found a comet that smells like cat pee, a moon that smells like farts, and a dust cloud that smells like rum.

Why Greenland Is Even Smaller Than You Might Think

Greenland is massive. Just look on any old public school map or visit Google maps, and you’ll be able to see how big it is. An enormous expanse of white, it comfortably dwarfs the whole of Europe and is nearly the same size as Canada. Some country, huh?

Of course, Greenland really isn’t that big. At around 2 million square kilometers (770,000 mi2), it’s less than a quarter of the size of Canada. The map we most commonly see is a Mercator projection, a Renaissance-era way of making a map that can easily be used by navigators. But even if we know Greenland is smaller than Canada, it can still shock us to see how small it really is. A new online map called the True Size Map allows users to drag and drop Greenland (or any other country) onto any landmass on Earth. The results will change the way you view maps forever.

Cold Weather Can Help Make You Sick After All

It’s an oft-repeated fact that viruses, not cold weather, make you sick. Research shows, though, that the cold is involved as well. Yale scientists found that when the temperature of your nasal cavity and upper respiratory system drops only a few degrees, it seriously compromises your immune system’s response time to any viruses you might inhale. Not only are fewer defenses sent out by your system, but cells are slower to kill themselves when they become infected. So the cold weather might be helping to make you sick, just like Mom always said.