News for Nerds - The Happiness Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 1/24/2014 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Happiness Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we'll explain why your commute may be hurting your marriage, why birds fly in a V formation, and why you should be paying more attention to Saturn's moons. But first, here are your happy, happy headlines.

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What is the secret to happiness?

If I knew that, I'd be a very rich man indeed. Of course there are the obvious factors that we hear about over and over: Get plenty of sleep. Exercise regularly. Spend time with family and friends.

But scientists are constantly studying the factors, large and small, that elevate our mood and bring us joy. A recent article at The Huffington Post outlines some of the more surprising things that trigger happiness. Here are a few of my favorites:

Become a master of something. Learn an instrument, take up quilting, teach yourself a new language. The what isn't as important as the act of mastering a new skill. A 2009 study shows that mastery is linked with happiness.

Pick up some flowers. "Floral odors can make you happy, floral odors promote social interaction," says Dr. Jeanette Haviland-Jones, a psychology professor at Rutgers University. She has co-authored research which shows that students in floral-scented classrooms use about three times as many happiness-related words in their work than students in classroom-scented classrooms.

Get the temperature right. There's plenty of evidence that warm weather is correlated with happiness. But then again, a 2011 study showed that happiness peaks at 57.02 degrees fahrenheit. (I'll still take the beach.)

Turn up the radio. Various studies show that listening to happy music really does elevate your mood, and it's also true that part of the brain's reward system, known as the nucleus accumbens, is activated when you hear new music. Or the Mindbender.

- story from The Huffington Post; photo from Camdiluv via Wikimedia Commons

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And now we move on to the gross-out portion of News for Nerds. If you're squeamish, feel free to skip ahead a little.

For those who are still with me, let me ask you a question: When is it okay to drink your own urine?

The answer is, well, cloudy. (Wordplay!) Urine is at least 95 percent water, but the remaining 5 percent isn't exactly packed with wholesome goodness -- that's why your body is expelling it in the first place. That last 5 percent contains excess electrolytes, such as chloride, sodium, and potassium. Electrolytes are good things in healthy doses, but too much can dehydrate you, or even lead to a heart attack.

Nevertheless, desperate situations call for desperate measures. Aron Ralston, the Colorado native who famously cut off his own arm after getting pinned beneath a boulder, drank his own urine during his 127-hour ordeal. So, too, did Dan Woolley, who spent 65 hours trapped beneath the rubble of a hotel in Haiti in 2010. Woolley says he learned the trick from Bear Grylls, host of TV's Survivorman, who also advocates the occasional pee cocktail.

When it comes to drinking your own urine, perhaps the best advice is: try not to put yourself in a situation where this even becomes an issue.

- story from Popular Science; photo from nd via Wikimedia Commons

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

  • As the host of a top-rated morning radio show, I'm sort of grateful that so many of you spend so much time in your cars, driving to and from work. That's more time that you and I can spend together every day. But there's bad news, too. A new study suggests that long commutes may do damage to your relationships, leading to separation and even divorce.
  • If you're the type that's into epic journeys and mind-blowing photographs, I've got a story for you. NASA's Cassini team has released all-new photos of Saturn and its three moons, and they are breathtaking. Hooray for space exploration!
  • And finally, there's an old joke that goes like this: Q. When birds fly in a V formation, why is one side longer than the other? A. Because one side has more birds! Okay, that's a little cheesy, but it's relevant. A team of scientists from the University of London's Royal Veterinary College have gained some fascinating insights into why birds fly in a V-formation. Check the video:

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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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