News for Nerds - The Binky Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 5/10/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Binky Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds. This week we explore the hidden benefits of sunshine, we get a glimpse at the flying car of the future, and we warn you about an unexpectedly slimy threat. But first, here are your headlines.

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Here's a story that should interest parents... and also all of my germophobe friends. A new study reinforces the belief that exposure to germs at an early age actually benefits children in the long run.

More specifically, this particular study involved children and their pacifiers. Infants whose parents sucked on dirty pacifiers to clean them (instead of rinsing or boiling them) developed fewer allergies, had lower rates of eczema, and showed fewer signs of asthma. The findings seem to back up the growing belief that shielding children from microbes like dirt and germs can backfire, preventing the immune system from developing a tolerance to small threats.

Experts involved with the study emphasize that we shouldn't focus too much on the pacifiers themselves, but rather on what they represent. It's possible that the type of parent who foregoes boiling a dirty pacifier is the same type to let their kids play in the dirt or have a less-disinfected house. Either way, it seems that a certain kind of interaction with the microbial environment is actually a good thing for infants and children.

Another takeaway from the study, says Dr. Joel Berg, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, is that "saliva is your friend." It contains enzymes, proteins, electrolytes and more -- some of which can be passed from parent to child.

- from The New York Times

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We live in an age of constant distraction. It's hard to go even one hour these days without being pulled in another direction by the buzzing of your phone, the pinging of your email, or some other abrupt interruption.

So how much do these distractions sap our productivity? The answer, it turns out, is quite a bit.

One previous study showed that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes of work done between each interruption -- and that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task. But what about the quality of work that's being done as we await our next distraction?

A new study from Carnegie Mellon University indicates that the distraction of an interruption, combined with the anticipation of preparing to be interrupted, causes the average test-taker to be 20 percent dumber. A second group was also interrupted, but this time unexpectedly and without warning. Their performance also suffered, to the tune of 14 percent.

But there was an interesting wrinkle here. A third group, which was told to expect an interruption that never actually came, improved their scores by a whopping 43 percent. More research will need to be done to explain this phenomenon, but one of the doctors involved says it's quite possible that we are capable of steeling ourselves against distractions by summoning extra brain power. It's also possible that merely knowing that an interruption might come helps create a mental deadline that brings us more focus.

Whatever the case, don't worry about it right now. Just go back to whatever you were doing before you started reading this post.

- from The New York Times (via Yahoo!)

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Here are a few other cool science stories that you might enjoy:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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