Pop science

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NARCISSISM DRAWS NARCISSISM ON SOCIAL MEDIA, STUDY FINDS

VANITY ON PARADE.

There are plenty of examples of narcissism all over social media — a person posting comments and photos solely to promote themselves. Most of us aren’t exactly tolerant of that sort of behaviour, but one study decided to examine whether narcissists themselves accepted the same type of behaviour from someone else. Published in the journal ‘Computers in Human Behavior’, the study used Instagram as its platform and found that narcissistic users were quite favourable towards others posting selfies to gain popularity, liking and following compatriots with similar behaviour. It seems that the need to be popular is acceptable and encouraged amongst people who exhibit grandiose narcissism (ie, the extroverts who express admiration for their own physical attractiveness). Like attracts like, in this case. The study, however, didn’t look into what is called ‘vulnerable narcissism’, behaviour associated with insecurities and social anxiety.

 

High salt diet could be damaging our brain

TOO MUCH IS TOO BAD.

Scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine in the US have found that the tiny crystals of salty goodness that we all love so much could be impeding blood flow to the learning and memory centres of the brain, leading to cognitive impairment and dementia. At least that’s the case with mice fed on a high-salt diet. The percentage of salt in their diet was as high as 8% but the study does raise questions about the connection between our gut and the brain. The good news, however, is that the damage caused by impaired blood flow is reversible, with normality setting in after four weeks of consuming a regular, healthy diet. For reference, the Heart Foundation recommends adults consume no more than 5g of salt per day.

 

Scientists create colour-changing material

ONE ACCESSORY, DIFFERENT COLOURS.

We’ve all been there and done that — wondered why we decided to wear white instead of blue or red. And the only way to change that would be to go home and put on different clothes. However, MIT researchers have discovered a way to change the colour of different materials by using photochromatic inks. Called ColorFab, the system creates a layer of voxels — units of visual information, much like pixels — in three dimensions, which can be activated by different wavelengths of UV light. The inks change colour and retain it even after the light source has been removed. So your cool new jacket won’t go from a bright red to a drab grey the moment you leave the house. The colours will, however, begin to fade after several weeks. The researchers still need to improve the process, but they say it can theoretically be used on any surface that can hold a layer of voxels.

 

Women’s wee could hold the key to tackling antibiotic-resistance bacteria

OH, NO, YOU’RE JUST TAKING THE PISS, RIGHT?

Researchers at Loyola University Chicago have found a plethora of never-before-seen viruses deep in the recesses of a woman’s bladder, that could be used to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These bacteriophages — bacteria-infecting viruses — have been listed and described in ‘the Journal of Bacteriology’, and this rich tinkling hoard could be used to combat bacterial infections. Phages exclusively only infect bacteria, with each phage species able to attack only a few types of bacteria, by taking over bacterial DNA. Unfortunately, scientists still don’t know enough to use these viruses safely and effectively. The researchers are currently studying the individual viruses to find out which ones could be put to good use.

 

HUMAN POO COULD ONE DAY BE FOOD... FOR ASTRONAUTS

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have figured out how to turn human waste into food. Yes, you read that right — human poop can be broken down by microbes to create a protein- and fat-rich substance that looks a lot like Vegemite. And given that food is hard to grow in space — or in a spacecraft — this edible goo is being earmarked for astronauts. Using anaerobic digestion (breaking down organic material in the absence of oxygen, like waste treatment), methane can be produced in a chamber within the spaceship, which, in turn, can be used to grow a microbe called Methylococcus capsulatus. This organism is already being used in animal feed and could potentially become a food source for humans as well. This new method of food production hasn’t yet been perfected, but it could give humankind hope that, when climate change destroys our staple food source, we’ll still have insect flour and human poo spreads to keep us going. [I think I’ll stick with Vegemite, thanks. — Ed]

 

BRAIN’S NEURAL RESPONSES CAN PREDICT WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE

A study out of Dartmouth in the UK has found that friends have similar neural responses to real-world stimuli like watching video clips. And these similarities can help predict who would make a great friend or help someone predict who your friends are. The study also found that we share some similarities in neural patterns with friends of friends as well. Published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’, the study is the first of its kind, linking brain patterns with real-life social networks. This research tells us that, when we meet someone we know, our brain immediately lets us know how important they are to us and what position they hold in our social life. The next step in this research will be to find out if we’re naturally attracted to people who view the world pretty much the way we do ourselves.

 

STRESS COULD BE TREATED EFFECTIVELY IN FUTURE AS SCIENTISTS DISCOVER ‘ANXIETY CELLS’ IN THE BRAIN

Neuroscientists in the US have found what could be ‘anxiety’ cells, hidden within the hippocampus of the brain. These cells — found in mice — fire up when the body is under any stress. In the case of the mice, this is when the animal is in a place that is innately frightening. The neuroscientists believe the cells can also be found in humans and, when stimulated, trigger other parts of the brain that cause anxious behaviours, such as sweaty palms and elevated heart rates. The scientists believe that the discovery of these cells opens up new avenues for treatment of stress and anxiety — if these cells are molecularly different from others around them, then perhaps new drugs could be formulated to suppress them.