News for Nerds - The Power of Repetition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 4/11/2014 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Power of Repetition

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we'll cover an interesting trend in boys' names, some tips for seeing Mars at its brightest, and a very painful bee sting. But first, here are your headlines.

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Here's an interesting stat: 90 percent of the music we listen to is music we've heard before.

That little nugget helped inspire music psychologist Elizabeth Margulis to conduct some really interesting research into the mere exposure effect, and it turns out that we don't just like to hear the same songs over and over. We like repetition within our music, too -- so much so, in fact, that when Margulis took a piece of non-repeating music and spliced it up so that it featured more repetition, she found that people reported liking it better than the original.

What's really interesting about this is that there are broader implications beyond music. Humans are hard-wired to be wary of new things, so repetition plays a big part in making us more comfortable with the unfamiliar. One obvious manifestation of this is political ads, which play over and over (and over and over and over and over) in the months leading up to an election. Turns out that the content of these ads is largely incidental -- it's the repetition that matters.

When it comes to music, Margulis says that mere exposure is only part of the story. She also points to the ways that listening to a song repeatedly helps us shift our attention around from the surface aspects -- bass line, chorus, etc. -- to the deeper elements you might not notice at first. After listening to your favorite song a few dozen times, you might start to think: it's pretty good, but it needs more cowbell.

- story from NPR, photo from Sperry1975 via Wikimedia Commons

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I live in a state that is known for having an active populace, and hardly a day goes by -- even in winter -- that I don't see several people out running around my neighborhood. Hooray for good fitness!

But just like everything else in life, moderation is key. New research shows that even an activity as healthy as running has diminishing returns, and can even be harmful if overdone. Getting two to three hours of running per week is a good idea. But going 20+ miles per week over long periods of time appears to correlate with a shorter lifespan. Go figure.

This is based on a study of more than 3,800 men and women runners, with an average age of 46. Researchers took into account not just running totals, but also factors such as painkiller use, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and family history. And none of that explains why moderate joggers outlive long-distance runners.

Thank you, science, for making me feel better about having never conquered the New York City marathon.

- story from HealthDay, photo from "Mike" Michael L. Baird via Wikimedia Commons

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And here are a few other cool science stories you'll enjoy:

  • If you've started to suspect that all kids' names these days sort of sound the same, don't worry: you're right (sort of). Since 2011, 4 out of every 10 baby boys have been given a name that ends with the letter 'n'. MIx it up, people.
  • A student from Cornell University has conducted experiments wherein he allowed bees to sting him in some very, um, sensitive areas. The result is a list of the Top 10 Most Painful Places to be Stung. Good to know that the nostril is more painful than the scrotum. Science wins again.
  • And finally, Mix100 listener Amy has shared this guide to witnessing the biggest, brightest Mars in over six years. Mark your calendars for Monday, April 14. And in the meantime, here's a primer video on The Opposition of Mars:

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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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