The Jumping Frenchmen Of Maine Is A Disorder Still Unexplained By Science (Psychology)

In the 1870s, French-Canadian lumberjacks working in a forest in Northern Maine started exhibiting some very strange symptoms: When they were startled, they would jump, yell, hit things, or even imitate those around them, completely involuntarily. Their disorder was named The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine, and experts still can’t fully explain it.

The condition came to the attention of esteemed neurologist George Miller Beard, who published a description of the lumberjacks’ symptoms in 1878. According to an account of an address Beard gave in 1880, “He found that the disorder began in childhood, was familial, was rarely in females, persisted throughout life, and was characterized by a marked and violent jump in response to sudden noise or startle.”

That startled jump took a bizarre variety of forms. Sometimes, the men would repeat back phrases they heard, a phenomenon called echolalia, or imitate how other people were moving, called echopraxia. They were also likely to follow random commands: “He described a 27-year-old patient who, while filling his pipe with tobacco, was slapped on the shoulder and told to ‘throw it.’ The patient threw the pipe and the tobacco on the grass automatically.” According to the National Association for Rare Disorders (NORD), afflicted people may also involuntarily swear or utter inappropriate phrases, a phenomenon known as coprolalia.

Experts still don’t know what causes the disorder. According to NORD, most believe it’s neuropsychiatric, or caused by a disease of the central nervous system. For a 1986 study, Marie-Helene Saint-Hilaire and Jean-Marc Saint-Hilaire studied eight “jumpers” and reported “In our opinion, this phenomenon is not a neurologic disease, but can be explained in psychological terms as operant conditioned behavior“—that is, behavior that’s reinforced by some response in your environment, like a dog who knows he has to sit before he gets his dinner. In this group of sufferers, it also could have been familial, says Alasdair Wilkins of io9. “This particular instance may have had some genetic component, considering most of the sufferers were closely related and came from one of four families, but that may just speak to the insular nature of the French-Canadian lumberjack community in 19th century Maine.”

But lumberjacks in Maine aren’t the only people who have exhibited these strange symptoms. Similar behavior has been documented in other isolated populations throughout the world, including the “Ragin’ Cajuns” of Louisiana, Malaysians and Indonesians with latah syndrome, and Siberians with the disorder known as myriachit. Despite its persistence, we still don’t know its cause or have an effective treatment. NORD suggests one obvious therapy, however: “Eliminating the practice of intentionally startling and/or teasing an individual so as to cause a jumping response can help to reduce or end episodes.”


Misophonia: A True Hatred For Certain Sounds (Psychology)

You’re casually chomping away on some potato chips at your desk when you feel a pair of eyes giving you a death stare. Apparently you’re being too noisy, because your co-worker is outraged. It seems like she’s being unreasonable, but that may not be the case. People who have misophonia, or a “hatred of sound,” suffer from an actual disorder.

If you react with anger or disgust to certain trigger sounds, such as chewing, slurping, heavy breathing, snoring, sniffling, foot tapping, and typing, you might suffer from misophonia. Once coined a condition, new research has misophonia considered an actual disorder.

In February 2017, a team of scientists lead by Newcastle University in the U.K. took brains scans of people with misophonia. When researchers played the trigger sounds, the subjects experienced “hyperactivity” and “abnormal functional connectivity” in the medial frontal, medial, parietal, and temporal regions of their brains. Some subjects also experienced an increased heart rate and sweating. Their study suggests that people with misophonia experience dramatic emotional and physical responses to commonly occurring sounds. The study does note that more research must be done to decide whether misophonia is a cause or consequence of atypical interoception.

People with misophonia traditionally haven’t received much sympathy from science, but these findings go a long way. Tim Griffiths, a professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University and UCL, admitted in a press release that he was once part of the skeptical community himself, until he saw patients in the clinic and “understood how strikingly similar the features are.” Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, with the same universities, emphasized the importance of this study in the same press releases: “This study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a skeptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder.” Basically, that coworker’s rage is the real deal. Maybe eat your potato chips somewhere else.


The Peak End Rule Says Experiences Are All About Ending (Psychology)

Which would you choose: 60 seconds of pain or 60 seconds of pain followed by 30 seconds of mild discomfort? Although the first option sounds like the winner, if you experienced them both, you’d be surprised how much better the second option feels. That’s thanks to the peak-end rule: the fact that you judge experiences not on how they feel overall, but on how they end.

As with a lot of the research done on cognitive biases, we have psychologist Daniel Kahneman to thank for the first studies of the peak-end rule. In 1993, he and colleagues Barbara Fredrickson, Charles Schreiber, and Donald Redelmeier published one study in Psychological Science intriguingly titled “When More Pain Is Preferred to Less.”

For the study, they asked participants to dunk one hand in water chilled to 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) for 60 seconds. That’s a temperature deemed “very dangerous” for swimming by the National Center for Cold Water Safety, which is apparently a thing. Next, they asked the same participants to do the same thing with the other hand, except they kept their hand in the water for an additional 30 seconds while, unbeknownst to the participants, the experimenters gradually increased the water temperature to 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) (“still painful but distinctly less so,” according to the study). Finally, they asked participants which trial they’d like to repeat for the third experiment. A majority chose the second trial, even though it technically put them through more pain than the first trial. The big difference was that they were in noticeably less pain near the end.

Kahneman and his colleagues tested and retested this hypothesis with film clips, colonoscopies, even watching other people’s discomfort. Time and again, they found that when asked to judge an experience in retrospect, people’s ratings could be predicted by a combination of the overall discomfort level and the discomfort level at the end of the experience. It didn’t matter how long the experience lasted; people mostly remembered how uncomfortable it was near the end.

A more recent study found this to be true with pleasant objects as well: People generally judge getting one good thing for free (a highly rated DVD or a chocolate bar, in these cases) to be better than one good thing packaged with a slightly less good thing (a DVD with a mediocre rating or a piece of bubble gum).

HOW TO USE THIS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE?

Knowing your own biases can help you “hack” your future experiences. The next time you want to remember something fondly, says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., keep these three tips in mind: First, when engaged in something seemingly negative, keep your mind focused on your overall goals for that experience. For example, while getting a filling, think about how good it’ll feel to eat without pain. Second, don’t let minor discomforts ruin good experiences. If the waiter forgets to fill your water during a romantic anniversary dinner, let it slide and focus instead on your beloved.

Finally, try to make sure your experiences end on a high note. Is staying until the concert’s encore worth the misery of being stuck in the parking lot for hours? If not, you might want to skip the final song and make the concert one to remember fondly.


These 4 Words Can Double Your Chances Of Getting What You Want (Psychology)

It’s not easy asking someone to do something for you, but we’ve got some good news on that front. To get your requests granted, all you need to remember are these magic words: “But you are free.” It’s simple and surprisingly effective.

Commit the phrase “but you are free” to memory now — these are the four magic words the can double your persuasive powers. The “but you are free” (BYAF) compliance-gaining technique works like this: You have a request for someone, so you tack on the phrase “but you are free” or “but you are free to refuse” after stating it. Why does this work?

In 2013, communication researcher Christopher Carpenter published a meta-analysis of the research on the BYAF technique in the journal Communication Studies. In it, he describes the very first experiment with the technique in 2000 by French researchers Nicholas Guéguen and Alexandre Pascual: “One of the experimenters approached individuals walking alone in a shopping mall in France. In the control condition, the experimenter made a simple, direct request: ‘Sorry, Madam/Sir, would you have some coins to take the bus, please?’ In the experimental condition, the experimenter added: ‘But you are free to accept or to refuse.’ Those in the experimental condition were substantially more likely to comply with the request. Moreover, those who gave in the experimental condition gave twice as much as those in the control condition.” Carpenter went on to say that the BYAF technique may work so well because it eases the target’s perception that his or her ability to say “no” is being taken away.

As you might expect from research that was originally performed in French, the wording of the phrase doesn’t really matter. Guéguen and Pascual also tried “but obviously do not feel obliged” and found that to be just as effective. According to the meta-analysis, “The factor most consistently emerging has been the importance of verbally recognizing the target’s freedom to say ‘no.'”

Why not take it a little further? How does this sound: You can get what you want and make someone like you at the same time. Try coupling the BYAF technique with a request for a favor from someone you want to make a good impression on. According to the Benjamin Franklin effect, you can gain someone’s admiration by asking him or her to do a favor for you. We dissect all the science behind it right here.


The Two Reasons Why Everything Takes Longer Than You Think It Will (Psychology)

You’ve been procrastinating filing your taxes, and suddenly it’s down to the wire. But you’ve got this — coffee is poured, laptop is ready to go, and your W2 is … wait, where’d it go? Before you know it, your taxes are taking way longer than anticipated, and you even gave yourself an hour longer than last year. There’s a reason for this: We’re our own worst enemies when it comes to productivity.

Parkinson’s Law reads: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This was the first line of Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s 1955 article in The Economist. Parkinson was a British historian and author who later included his law of productivity in the book, Parkinson’s Law: Or The Pursuit of Progress. His idea stemmed from the slow crawl of British bureaucracy, but it can really relate to anything. Have you ever been given hours to get ready, so you simply fill that time with a relaxing bath, some internet browsing, then a rushed outfit change before you’re out the door? This law proves that, psychologically speaking, you can make the same amount of progress in four hours that you can make in 30 minutes.

It’s also a good argument to not give yourself a week to complete a task when you just need a productive afternoon — you’ll likely fill most of the week with undue angst and wasted energy. Lifehack recommends making a to-do list, then taking the time slots you’ve allowed yourself for each task and slashing them in half. Instead of working harder, they recommend working “smarter” by beating the clock and avoiding time sucks (e.g., browsing your internet news feed). But there’s something else at play here. Sometimes tasks seem to take forever, even when you try to give yourself the perfect amount of time. What gives? It’s called Hofstadter’s Law.

Douglas Hofstadter is a cognitive scientist and author who first introduced his productivity law in the 1979 book “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.” His law reads: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” In other words, people tend to underestimate how long a task will take them, even when they’re aware of this flaw. If you gave yourself an hour to file your taxes last year, but it really took you four hours, you might peg the delay on outside forces. “If I hadn’t picked Oscars night and my kids hadn’t constantly interrupted me, it could’ve taken an hour.” Then, instead of setting a realistic timeframe, you ‘generously’ give yourself two hours. Before you know it, four hours have passed. As The Guardian notes, this “planning fallacy” could also explain construction delays, like why the Sydney Opera House opened 10 years later than scheduled.

But not all is lost! If you’re working on your time-management skills, you should try examining your own past experiences as well as those of others for more accurate time estimates. Psych Central recommends working on the task which will have the “greatest positive impact on your project.” They note that there’s a “temptation to clear up the smaller, easier tasks on your list first,” but you should actively fight that impulse. Good luck — we believe in you!


This Tiny Instrument Can Be Able To Detect Extremely Faint Magnetic Fields (Quantum)

David Indolese and colleagues have developed a tiny instrument which can be able to detect extremely faint magnetic fields. At the heart of the superconducting quantum interference device are two atomically thin layers of graphene, which the researchers combined with boron nitride. Instruments like this one have applications in areas such as medicine, besides being used to research new materials.

a) A conventional superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) consists of a superconducting ring interrupted at two points by weak links (in this case a graphene layer). b) The new SQUID is made up of a stack of two-dimensional materials, including two graphene layers separated by a thin film of boron nitride. (Image: University of Basel, Department of Physics)

To measure very small magnetic fields, researchers often use superconducting quantum interference devices, or SQUIDs. The team has now succeeded in creating one of the smallest SQUIDs ever built.

A typical SQUID consists of a superconducting ring interrupted at two points by an extremely thin film with normal conducting or insulating properties. These points, known as weak links, must be so thin that the electron pairs responsible for superconductivity are able to tunnel through them. Researchers recently also began using nanomaterials such as nanotubes, nanowires or graphene to fashion the weak links connecting the two superconductors.

SEM images of a DLG JJ with a schematic of the cross-section

As a result of their configuration, SQUIDs have a critical current threshold above which the resistance-free superconductor becomes a conductor with ordinary resistance. This critical threshold is determined by the magnetic flux passing through the ring. By measuring this critical current precisely, the researchers can draw conclusions about the strength of the magnetic field.

Their novel SQUID consists of a complex, six-layer stack of individual two-dimensional materials. Inside it are two graphene monolayers separated by a very thin layer of insulating boron nitride. If two superconducting contacts are connected to this sandwich, it behaves like a SQUID—meaning it can be used to detect extremely weak magnetic fields. The graphene layers are the weak links, although in contrast to a regular SQUID they are not positioned next to each other, but one on top of the other, aligned horizontally.

The tiny device for measuring magnetic fields is only around 10 nanometers high—roughly a thousandth of the thickness of a human hair. The instrument can trigger supercurrents that flow in minuscule spaces. Moreover, its sensitivity can be adjusted by changing the distance between the graphene layers. With the help of electrical fields, the researchers are also able to increase the signal strength, further enhancing the measurement accuracy.


References: David I. Indolese, Paritosh Karnatak, Artem Kononov, Raphaëlle Delagrange, Roy Haller, Lujun Wang, Péter Makk, Kenji Watanabe, Takashi Taniguchi, and Christian Schönenberger, “Compact SQUID Realized in a Double-Layer Graphene Heterostructure”, Nano Letters Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.0c02412 link: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.nanolett.0c02412

Hubble Observed Globular Cluster, NGC 1805 (Astronomy)

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed the beautiful globular cluster called NGC 1805.

Globular systems are systems of very ancient stars, gravitationally bound into a single structure about 100-200 light-years across.

They are among the oldest known objects in the Universe and are relics of the first epochs of galaxy formation.

This Hubble image NGC 1805, a globular cluster located 163,000 light-years away in the constellation of Dorado. The color image is made up of observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in the ultraviolet, near-infrared, and optical parts of the spectrum. Four filters were used to sample various wavelengths. The color results from assigning different hues to each monochromatic image associated with an individual filter. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / J. Kalirai.

They contain hundreds of thousands or perhaps a million stars. The large mass in the rich stellar center of a cluster pulls the stars inward to form a ball of stars. The word globulus, from which these clusters take their name, is Latin for small sphere.

It is thought that every galaxy has a population of globular clusters. Some, like the Milky Way, have a few hundred, while elliptical galaxies can have several thousand.

NGC 1805 is located approximately 163,000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Dorado.

Also known as ESO 85-32 and KMHK 459, it resides in the outskirts of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way Galaxy.

NGC 1805 was discovered on September 24, 1826 by the Scottish astronomer James Dunlop.

“Usually, globular clusters contain stars which are born at the same time; however, NGC 1805 is unusual as it appears to host two different populations of stars with ages millions of years apart,” Hubble astronomers said to sci-news.

“Observing such clusters of stars can help us understand how stars evolve, and what factors determine whether they end their lives as white dwarfs, or explode as supernovae.”

“The striking difference in star colors is illustrated beautifully in this Hubble image, which combines two different types of light: blue stars, shining brightest in near-ultraviolet light, and red stars, illuminated in red and near-infrared,”.

“Space telescopes like Hubble can observe in the ultraviolet because they are positioned above Earth’s atmosphere, which absorbs most of this wavelength, making it inaccessible to ground-based facilities.”


Today’s Top 5 Researches Based On Health And Food (Food)

1) CAN MEDITATION AFFECT YOUR DNA MAKEUP

Meditation has been proven to positively affect hypertension, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and more in people. But new research suggests that meditating can affect the very makeup of your DNA. A recent study held by a Canadian research team looked at different groups of distressed breast cancer patients. Each group went through varying amounts of group therapy, yoga, and meditation sessions. The groups that went through yoga, meditative mindfulness practices, and group therapy had their telomeres in tact. Telomeres are stretches of DNA that act as caps on our chromosomes, and help prevent deterioration of chromosomes. Shortened telomeres are not likened to any specific disease, but we do know that they shorten with age.

2) IS COCKROACH MILK THE NEXT GREAT SUPERFOOD?

Imagine drinking a glass of cold, refreshing milk… except that milk came from a cockroach. It’s a situation that seems more outlandish than it really is. Scientists have identified cockroach milk as a potential “superfood.”

Not all cockroaches produce milk, but the Diploptera punctata cockroach does, as it is one of the few insects that gives birth to live young. In the mid-gut of this particular type of cockroach, there are protein crystals that are about four times more nutritious than cow’s milk. If milking a cockroach seems ridiculous, it’s because it would be. Instead, an international team of researchers is looking into sequencing the genes that create this milk protein crystal in labs. “The crystals are like a complete food — they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” one of the researchers, Sanchari Banerjee, told the Times of India.

3) EAT FRUITS AND VEGGIES TO BOOST YOUR HAPPINESS

It’s common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are vital parts of a nutritious diet. Recent research shows strong evidence that eating fruits and veggies provides even more positive benefits than just for your physical health. Reported in July 2016, researchers at the University of Warwick found evidence that eating fruits and vegetables is associated with a substantial increase in happiness levels. In the study, happiness increased for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables up to eight portions per day. This was one of the first major scientific attempts to look at the link between eating fruits and vegetables and positive psychological effects. Some researchers believe there is a link between optimism and blood levels of carotenoid, which is present in many fruits and vegetables, although more research is needed.

4) WHY MAYONNAISE PROBABLY WONT GIVE YOU FOOD POISONING?

Everybody knows not to eat potato salad left out after a picnic or a mayo-slathered sandwich that’s been in a lunch bag too long. And while these foods certainly have the potential to make you sick, the mayonnaise they contain is almost guaranteed not to be the reason.

At its most basic, mayonnaise is a combination of oil, egg yolks, and vinegar or lemon juice. Those last two ingredients are the key to why claims that mayo causes food poisoning are almost entirely unfounded: the condiment’s high acid content protects it against spoiling. Indeed, multiple studies in the Journal of Food Protection have found that mayonnaise actually decreases the growth of bacteria like salmonella and staphyloccus, which means adding mayonnaise to food will in fact reduce the risk that the other ingredients could make you sick.

5) VITAMIN C DOESN’T PREVENT COLDS. WHY DO WE THINK IT DOES?

When you feel a cold coming on, it can seem that recommendations to take lots of vitamin C are everywhere you turn. And while popping vitamin C pills and gulping vitamin-C-rich beverages probably won’t do you harm, it won’t do you much good either. That’s because study after study has shown that vitamin C is ineffective in preventing, treating, or even speeding recovery of the common cold. The science is so conclusive, in fact, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, and the American Dietetic Association don’t recommend its use for cold treatment or prevention.

But if vitamin C doesn’t do anything to colds, why do we think it does? That’s all thanks to a scientist named, Linus Pauling. Though Pauling won two Nobel Prizes in his lifetime—one for a discovery about chemical bonds, another for his work in opposition of nuclear war—his scientific interests became somewhat bizarre when he reached his mid-60s. When he took the advice of an untrained yet self-proclaimed doctor to take 50 times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C per day in order to prolong his life, Pauling recalled, “The severe colds I had suffered several times a year all my life no longer occurred. After a few years, I increased my intake of vitamin C to ten times, then twenty times, then three hundred times the RDA: now 18,000 milligrams per day.” He wrote a book urging others to do the same, and in response, 50 million Americans were taking his advice by the mid-1970s—despite the many scientific studies proving him wrong.


Where Does The Fat Go After You Burn It? (Biology)

During a particularly difficult spin class, you might wonder where all the weight you’re trying to lose is actually going. The answer: You exhale it as carbon dioxide.

WHY IT MATTERS?

Nearly half of all Americans are trying to lose weight. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 49% of Americans say they would like to shed pounds. Could understanding how it actually works help the numbers on the scale move? Maybe. And just in case, here goes…

When you burn more calories than you consume, your body has to dip into its fat storage for energy. This is how people burn fat and lose weight. The way your body burns fat is by oxidizing the molecules that make up the triglycerides that fill up fat cells: glycerol and three fatty acids. According to a 2014 study published by the British Medical Journal, most of the fat you burn turns into carbon dioxide and water. The process of burning 22 lbs (10kg) of fat will produce 62 lbs (28 kg) of carbon dioxide. Surprisingly, 84% of fat that is burned turns into carbon dioxide, and the remaining 16% becomes water.

WHY PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW?

“Considering the soaring overweight and obesity rates and strong interest in this topic, there is surprising ignorance and confusion about the metabolic process of weight loss among the general public and health professionals alike,” the authors of that 2014 study wrote. Many people, including general practitioners, dietitians and physical trainers, believe that “fat is converted to energy or heat, which violates the law of conservation of mass,” or that fat is simply converted to muscle. But that’s not the case. Considering how much time and energy (and money!) is spent on weight loss each year, it’s good to know what’s actually happening.

One quick, but important, note: This doesn’t mean that simply exhaling more will help you drop pounds. (Don’t we wish!) Breathing out, in and of itself, doesn’t jumpstart fat burning. But, as Rachel Feltman and Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post explain, “the huffing and puffing that occurs during an intense workout will be full of the sweet spoils of weight loss.”