Beer Boosts Problem-Solving Skills; Women and Children Aren't First

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Discovered: alcohol may increase your problem-solving skills, men don't act chivalrous when disaster strikes, UCLA has created a time machine of sorts and toddlers and chimps have something in common.

  • Alcohol may significantly enhance your problem-solving skills. Homer Simpson once called alcohol "the cause of and solution to all of life's problems." According to Professor Jennifer Wiley of the University of Illinois at Chicago, he undersold it. "Scientists found that men who either drank two pints of beer or two glasses of wine before solving brain teasers not only got more questions right, they also were quicker in delivering correct answers, compared to men who answered the questions sober," reports Medical Daily. Wiley says that contrary to ideas that alcohol disrupts analytical thinking, alcohol may help people with creative problem solving by reducing peoples' working memory capacity. “The bottom line is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader, more flexible state of attention is needed for creative solutions to emerge,” she says. Cheers to you, Homer. 
  • When disaster strikes—don't count on male chivalry. In sinking ship movies, you always here the phrase "Women and children first!" Turns out, that's a myth. Two Swedish researchers just wrapped up a study of 18 of the most famous shipwrecks and concluded that men pretty much look after themselves. "Our findings show that behavior in life-and-death situation is best captured by the expression `every man for himself'," they wrote. The project was carried out by analyzing passenger lists, logs and registers, and out of 15,000 dead passengers, only 17.8 percent of women survived while 34.5 percent of the men made it. Interestingly, it turns out that the sinking of the Titanic was one of the few exceptions. "Of the 1,496 people that perished with the Titanic, 73.3 percent of the women and 50.4 percent of the children survived compared to only 20.7 percent of the men," reports the Associated Press. But for the most part, men pretty much act like George Costanza in a crisis
  • Toddlers have a herd mentality. A new study in group dynamics shows that "following the crowd" is a habit picked up early on in toddlers and chimps. "Prior studies revealed that children are sensitive to peer pressure already at preschool age," according to Current Biology. "The researchers wanted to know whether the majority influences social learning at an even earlier age and in other primate species as well." The study was done by dropping a ball into a box. There were three different colored holes and the participants would reach into the holes to discover a treat. They participants watched as a first group reached into the holes and, according to the study, the participants reached for the holes that were selected by the previous participants. "Parents and teachers should be aware of these dynamics in children's peer interactions," said the researchers. 
  • UCLA researchers built a kind of "time machine." Well, kind of. The new instrument is designed to allow researchers to look at the earliest galaxies in the universe, which scientists previously haven't been able to study. They call it: MOSFIRE for Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infra-Red Exploration. "MOSFIRE gathers light in infrared wavelengths -- invisible to the human eye -- allowing it to penetrate cosmic dust and see distant objects whose light has been stretched or "redshifted" to the infrared by the expansion of the universe," according to a release from UCLA. So while you don't get to literally travel to the stone age, you do get to glimpse at some of the earliest planet systems.  "The instrument was designed to study the most distant, faintest galaxies," UCLA professor Ian S. McLean said.  "When we look at the most distant galaxies, we see them not as they are now but as they were when the light left them that is just now arriving here. Some of the galaxies that we are studying were formed some 10 billion years ago -- only a few billion years after the Big Bang." Pretty nifty.

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This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.