Penguin Parents Take 4-Second Naps
Parents with young babies know how hard it is to get quality sleep, but at least humans don't have to guard against predators swooping in to eat your baby at any time. That's the case with penguins, who must stay alert to protect incubating eggs and young chicks. It's a full-time job, so penguin mothers and fathers switch out incubation time and time spent hunting for food. But how do they get any sleep? A study of 14 chinstrap penguins in the South Shetland Islands saw the birds outfitted with EEG sensors, GPS trackers, and pressure sensors. The results give a picture of how much time penguins of a mating pair spent incubating eggs, hunting, and resting. They found that while incubating or watching chicks, these penguins slept in increments of a few seconds at a time. The average "nap" was only four seconds long! Both incubating and non-incubating penguins had about 600 naps an hour, or up to 10,000 a day. Some naps involved both brain hemispheres, while others were for one hemisphere only, which is how some migrating birds sleep while flying. Read more about this research at ABC. -via Metafilter(Image credit: Jorge Alarcon or Dr. Daniel Benetti)
What Social Media Has Done to Us
Misinformation, trolling, anger, tribalism... it's all because of social media, right? Maybe not in the way you're thinking. Kurzgesagt explains how these psychological forces have been around as long as humankind has existed. That doesn't make it right, but we've developed a system in which we cling to the people around us, listen to them and learn how to be like them, and use social constraints to get along with them even when we don't get along with them. In the same way, we learned to distrust outsiders who we perceived as not like us. Social media indeed changed all that, because it gave us all a much bigger platform to express ourselves without the constraints of having to face our neighbors. The tribalism we developed for our communities has expanded across the world, but so have the number of our perceived enemies. We haven't yet learned to to give faceless strangers online the same courtesies we would to our immediate neighbors, nor do we have time to get to know them as we should. So we can blame social media for the intensity and the reach of our worst behavior, but the forces that have been unleashed were with us all along.
Bad News for Hospitals: Bleach Won't Kill C. diff
The bacterium Clostridium difficile is present in nature, and under normal circumstances, is not all that dangerous because our gut biomes will keep it in check. But for people who are elderly, who are already sick, or who are taking antibiotics, a C. diff infection can be deadly. That's why this bacterium is a huge problem in hospitals, where these potential victims make up a large percentage of patients. Now we have another reason why hospitals have such a hard time controlling C. diff. Medical facilities use huge amounts of chlorine bleach to disinfect surfaces, which kills many kinds of bacteria but has no effect on C. diff. This new study published in the journal Microbiology will cause concern among hospital staff already working hard to control the germ, but we hope it will lead to new adapted cleaning protocols that can more effectively reduce the risk of C. diff infections. -via Damn Interesting(Image credit: Melissa Chatham)
The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs
The Chicxulub asteroid hit the earth in the Yucatan subcontinent 66 million years ago and changed everything. The impact itself was devastating for a large part of the earth, but the aftereffects changed the entire earth. It even changed the global climate! And that's why we have no dinosaurs today, unless you count the little birds that somehow survived. We've never had an event as powerful or as destructive as the Chicxulub impact before or after. Could it happen again? Yes, but the chances are pretty small. I hope that makes you feel better about it because we've got plenty of other things to worry about. -via Geeks Are Sexy
Psychedelics in the Treatment of Eating Disorders
The research potential of psychedelic drugs has been opening up in the 21st century, and they are showing some promise for a variety of treatments. Psilocybin in particular has been found to be useful in helping longtime smokers quit the habit, and in the reduction of anxiety and depression. A newer possibility is that they can aid in the fight against eating disorders. These disorders, such as anorexia, often arise from a state of rigid thinking, in which the victim continually falls back into dangerous behavior patterns. Eating disorders are often accompanied by anxiety and depression, and all too often lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. Psychedelic drugs such as ketamine have been shown to allow patients to see their situation from a different angle, in which they are able to separate the self from the disorder. There is a broad tendency for psychedelics to increase neuroplasticity, or the ability to change one's thinking. Neuroplasticity gives us the ability to adapt to our environment. Ketamine and the related esketamine are already in use to treat eating disorders, and researchers are looking into the possibility of studying MDMA and psilocybin for anorexia treatment. Read about the potential promise of such drugs in the treatment of eating disorders at Smithsonian.(Image credit: Doc James)
A Terrifying Yet Hypothetical War with Aliens
If you have a hypothetical question, there's no better folks to ask than the team behind Kurzgesagt. What would happen if an alien civilization went to war with earth? Considering the vast distances between the two warring factions, the aliens would prefer to just destroy the entire earth with one shot, and we'd never know what hit us. Based on the technology we already know about, they might select from three weapons: the star laser, the relatavistic missile, and the ultra-relativistic electron beam. Each one of these super-weapons is terrifying, even from light-years away. If you feel frightened by them, just remember that we'll never know what hit us. Still, all this is very unlikely because of the distances involved. What they're trying to get across to us is that war between planets is way more trouble than it's worth, no matter how angry they may be at us. Now imagine how much this science-based speculation would affect our science fiction stories and Marvel movies. This videois only eleven minutes long; the rest is an ad.
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