News for Nerds - The 'Picture This' Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 12/13/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The 'Picture This' Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we'll do an Earth fly-by (from space!), we'll explore the freezing depths of the coldest place on Earth, and we'll learn what awful habit is infecting the way we communicate with each other. But first, here are your headlines.

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It's long been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. And while that may be true, science tells us that in some ways, a picture can be worth zero words.

A study out of Fairfield University has shown that humans actually have a worse memory for objects, and for specific details about those objects, when they take photos of them. Participants in the study were led on a tour of an art museum and were instructed to take note of certain objects, either by photographing them or by simply observing them. The next day they were quizzed, and the results may surprise you.

It turns out that the participants were less accurate when it came to recognizing objects they had photographed compared to those they had merely observed. They also weren't able to answer as many questions about the objects' visual details for those objects they had photographed.

The findings were later replicated in a second study, but there is still much to be learned about how and why this occurs. For instance, zooming in with your camera on a specific detail preserves your memory for the entire object (and not just the detail that you photographed). Weird, right?

Furthermore, it's not clear if actually being in a photo with any given object affects your memory of that object, or if having the free will to choose what you photograph -- which didn't happen in these studies -- makes a difference. Regardless, it's interesting to note that while most of us snap pictures in order to be able to return to it later, that rarely happens.

Says psychologist Linda Henkel, "Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them." Makes sense to me. And if you'd seen the iPhoto pileup on my laptop, it'd make sense to you, too.

(I wrote a piece back in April for my syndicated column about how we miss out on the important stuff in life when we try to watch it through a little screen.)

- from Science 2.0

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From the concept of memory to the semi-related concept of dreams, let's dive into the 7 unexpected things that influence your dreams.

  1. Your 'Favored Position' - People who sleep on their left side have more nightmares; people who sleep on their right side have mellower, more peaceful dreams; and those of you who snooze on your stomach are more prone to erotic dreams.
  2. Music Lessons - The younger you are when you start music lessons, the more frequently you dream about music.
  3. It's the Cheese! - The most commonly reported dream-disturbing foods contain dairy -- although cheddar, it seems, inspires pleasant dreams, while stinky blue cheese inspires weird dreams.
  4. The Planet's Pull - The fewer fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field, the more dream-inducing sleep hormone the body produces.
  5. Your Sleep Habits - Night owls wake up at an earlier-than-normal circadian phase, and they also have more REM cycles nightly, which means more opportunities for nightmares.
  6. Gamers Have More Control - The more you play video games, the more awareness (and, interestingly, control) you'll have in your dreams.
  7. Suppression Probably Won't Help - Whatever troubling thoughts you're trying to avoid -- deadlines, disputes, snakes -- the more likely they are to pop up in your dreams. You can blame the pesky prefrontal cortex for that one.

- from The Huffington Post

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

  • Have you ever, like, noticed that a lot of young people speak in a manner that seems to finish every sentence as if it were a question? Where their voice climbs a bit? And it sounds a lot like you're talking to an '80s-era valley girl? (It's happening as you read this, isn't it?) Well, get used to it. Because it's getting worse.
  • I live in Denver, and here in the Mile High City we've been treated to some frightfully low temperatures lately. We even had a six-day stretch where we never got above the freezing mark. But that's nothing compared to the eastern plains of Antarctica, where scientists recently recorded the lowest temperature ever found on Earth: a bone-chilling -135.3 degrees. Brrrr.
  • And finally, check out this cool image of Earth, as seen by a space probe bound for Jupiter:

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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!

1 Responses to "News for Nerds - The 'Picture This' Edition"
  • Gary January 17, 2014 6:04 am
    As bad, or worse, than the "up talk" is people who start EVERY sentence with "So...". Listen to your callers. "So, back when I was in high school". Why the "so"? Why can't they just say, "back when I was in high school". The other one that drives me nuts is, "is is that". As I'm typing this, Microsoft is underlining the second is as a grammar error. But I hear people say it all the time. JANE says it all the time. "Well that would be one solution. The problem is is that you never know blah blah blah". I'm not THAT much of a spelling and grammar Nazi. But those two things really be? Ya know? Like, almost as much as like, over using like? And like, up talking?

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