Discovered: A biological explanation for label-snobs, bad news for wine-drinkers, Twitter did influence the Arab Spring, car battery's super powers and a malaria vaccine
- A scientific reason for snobbery. If we said Rembrandt painted both of these paintings below, an observer's brain would not be able to tell the difference between the two images, found research out of the University of Oxford. But, as soon as we outed one of these as a Rembrandt impostor -- we'll let you figure that one out -- the brain triggers responses to make us prefer the real one over the phony image, discovered those same researchers. "When a participant was told that a work was genuine, it raised activity in the part of the brain that deals with rewarding events, such as tasting pleasant food or winning a gamble," writes the Oxford press release. "Being told a work is not by the master triggered a complex set of responses in areas of the brain involved in planning new strategies." We assume this extends beyond paintings, to all things aesthetic, like, clothing brands. Thus there's no shame in a little label snobbery -- science has proven we are hardwired for it. [Oxford]
- Wine update: drinking vino will not make you live longer. There's a lot of research pushing for red wine's health benefits. But today, science has some bad news for wine enthusiasts: Other factors largely determine better health outcomes for wine drinkers. People who drink red wine tend to make better lifestyle choices. Makes sense, as it's a libation even parents can get behind. The study isn't all downer news, however: wine drinkers do have lower mortality. Might be a good idea to throw a glass of red wine in your booze rotation, for good measure. [Eureka]
- The revolution was tweeted. Social media played a part in the Arab Spring. But the effects of tweeting and Facebooking are arguable. There's the Malcolm Gladwell school that calls the connection between the tweeting and revolting absurd. And then there's the other side, that claims one very much influenced the other. A new study provides a data point for this latter group. Looking at 87,569 Twitter accounts over a 30 day period, researchers as Oxford found that social media facilitated spreading and recruiting for a protest movement. "By examining the collective behaviour of online users, we have established that most people are influenced by what those around them do," write the authors. "If they are exposed to many messages calling for action within a short time frame, they are more likely to respond to this apparent urgency and join in. This creates recruitment bursts that can translate into a global cascade with truly dramatic effects, as the massive demonstrations and the wave of occupations that followed shows." [Oxford]
- What makes car batteries special. There's something about lead-oxide batteries that makes them powerful enough to start car engines -- something other materials like it can't do. Now, after using them in our car's for over 150 years, scientists have figured out what makes this oxide special. The big reveal: "Lead dioxide is intrinsically an insulator with a small electronic band gap, but invariably becomes electron rich due to the loss of oxygen from the lattice, causing the material to be transformed from an insulator into a metallic conductor," explains the study. That means little to us non-science-y folk. But for your car, it means everything. [Science Daily]
- A possible malaria vaccine. Researchers are ready to human-test a promising experimental vaccine for the disease. As of now, dealing with malaria involves remembering to buy and take anti-malaria pills and then getting the right medication immediately. A vaccine would eliminate all these steps, making life easier for anyone living in or traveling to the red or yellow countries on the CDC map below.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.