News for Nerds - The Foods We Love to Hate

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 6/6/2014 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Foods We Love to Hate

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week: a special anniversary, an acoustic tractor beam, and the powerful smell of bacon! But first, here are your headlines.

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Once merely sustenance, food has become an industry unto itself. From TV shows to magazines to blogs to conversations around the water cooler, you probably spend a fair amount of time every day not just eating food, but also talking or reading about it.

But no matter how many episodes of Top Chef you watch, I'll bet there are still some foods that you just can't tolerate. And according to several studies, you can blame your genes -- and also your nose -- for some of your food issues.

Take, for instance, cilantro. Many people love it, but many people find it disgusting, citing a soapy taste, or saying it reminds them of bedbugs. The great Julia Child famously said that if she saw cilantro in a dish she was served, she would pick it out "and throw it on the floor."

But it's not really the taste of cilantro that turns people off. It's actually the smell. Research indicates that some people don't smell as well as others, and that we're all wired to pick up different scents anyway. People whose sense of smell is limited may not be picking up the good aromas that come along with cilantro, but instead only getting the bad aromas, which are indeed chemically similar to soap and bedbugs.

What's more, genetics plays a big part in all of this, since our sense of smell is something that is passed on to us through our genes. Take that, Padma Lakshmi!

- story from Mother Nature Network, photo from Mcmixi via Wikimedia Commons

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It's been said that women get blamed for everything, and that they aren't taken as seriously as men are. Adding fuel to that fire is this recent story which says that hurricanes with female names tend to be more deadly than hurricanes with male names.


According to a study that looked at six decade's worth of storm data, it's because people subconsiously assume that storms with feminine names will be less dangerous. Yes, really.

In reality, a hurricane's name has nothing to do with how fierce it will be. But researchers found that the more feminine a storm's name, the more fatalities it caused. Like, a lot more. Their report says that changing a severe hurricane's name from Charley to Eloise could triple its death rate. Triple!

The researchers do caution that while gender stereotypes are likely to blame, it doesn't necessarily imply a negative view toward women. It may just be that people view men as more aggressive, and that they transfer those feelings to hurricanes.

And besides, anyone worried about women getting the short end of the gender stick should take comfort in the fact that, on the bright side, they also get to experience childbirth, deal with menstrual cramps and menopause, and get paid less for doing the same job. So it's pretty much a wash.

- story from Time, photo from Jacques Descloitres via Wikimedia Commons

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

  • Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and the legacy of this historic date lives on in more than our memories. Hundreds of sunken wrecks remain buried in the watery depths off the coast of France. A new episode of the always-excellent PBS show NOVA premiered this week, and it uncovers a lot of cool stuff about the lost D-Day wreckage that you may not know. You can read a bit about it here, and watch the full episode here.
  • News for Nerds fan David submitted this story, about the creation of a real-life tractor beam. Lots of fascinating science-y stuff here, including how, in lieu of lasers, the tractor beam uses ultrasonic waves to move macroscopic objects. (But would it be strong enough to pull in the Milennium Falcon? Lord Vader wants to know.)
  • And finally, an answer to the age-old question, why does bacon smell so good? The folks at the American Chemical Society explain:

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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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