Archive — Science
I have worried about the social and mental health effects of the lockdown measures being implemented. But even I hadn’t anticipated quite how much conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder appear to be common following quarantines.
According to a rapid review of the psychological effects of quarantines, published on March 14th in the Lancet, a British medical journal, some studies suggest that the impact of quarantines can be so severe as to result in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder…
One study from 2009 looked at hospital employees in Beijing who in 2003 were exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which, like covid-19, is caused by a coronavirus. The authors found that, three years later, having been quarantined was a predictor of post-traumatic-stress symptoms. Another study… found that the mean post-traumatic-stress scores were four times higher in children who had been isolated.
Elsewhere, the article highlights as a problem the fact that 67% of 18–34-year-olds are finding it hard to remain upbeat. But I’m more concerned about those who are managing to be upbeat among all this madness.
I really valued this conversation about the coronavirus outbreak on the Adam Buxton podcast. It is a good deal more informative, measured and realistic — and less reactionary — than most of what we are hearing from most people.
It has long been known that being kind to others makes you feel good and can improve your mental health. Now it seems there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that it can increase your life expectancy.
“Living with people who treat you, at best, with disregard or a lack of concern, and at worst with open hostility, is bad for you. It shortens your life, quite literally,” [Daniel Fessler] says.
“Conversely, both receiving kindness from others, and providing kindness, both of those things are the antithesis of this toxic stress situation. And they’re good for you.”
On the campaign to remove — or make less prominent — walls of portraits of old white men from academia’s past.
“It just sends the message, every day when you walk by it, that science consists of old white men,” says [neuroscientist Leslie] Vosshall. “I think every institution needs to go out into the hallway and ask, ‘What kind of message are we sending with these oil portraits and dusty old photographs?'”
While defenders of dude walls warn of erasing history, the counterpoint is powerful:
…some argue that the old portraits themselves have erased history, by glorifying white men who hold power while ignoring the contributions to science and medicine made by women and people of colour.
Celebrations of individuals in this way always make me wary. It seems to be particularly common in higher education, where awards and buildings are routinely named after white males.
But very few breakthroughs are truly the work of a single individual. The people honoured in this way are likely the people most adept at taking all the credit for other people’s work.
Stop talking about testosterone — there’s no such thing as a ‘true sex’ — Katrina Karkazis, the Guardian
A reminder that this is way more complicated than many people would like you to believe.
Who’s laughing now? The science behind the UN’s reaction to Trump
The calculations that were going through Donald Trump’s head when the UN laughed at him.
Part of the way humans respond to laughter is to work out whether we are included in it or excluded from it, and whether we are being laughed with or laughed at. I see people’s brains truly light up in the MRI scanner when they listen to laughter, as they’re trying to figure this all out.
Testing the sound mirrors that protected Britain
I very rarely link to (or even watch) a video. But I am happy to make an exception for Tom Scott’s excellent entertaining and educational videos.
Here, he tests concrete sound mirrors with drones. I’m fascinated by sound mirrors — an early 20th century technology designed to provide early warning of approaching aircraft, which became obsolete quickly as aircraft speeds increased, and radar took over.
Scientists have revived worms that had been frozen for 42,000 years
The worms, known as nematodes or more commonly as roundworms, had been frozen for up to 42,000 years, since a time when much of the planet was covered in ice.
But they weren’t dead — just cryogenically preserved.
The researchers brought the worms back to a lab, where they slowly thawed them over several weeks.
- This is cool.
- We’re all going to die!
The shoey: Why it’s a bad idea to copy Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 podium ritual
Finally, someone has done the science on the shoey, the ritual whereby Daniel Ricciardo drinks champagne out of his sweaty shoe after winning a grand prix. It’s about as bad as you might expect.
The positive — and possibly surprising — revelation was that in most instances the alcohol kills much of the bacteria present.
In fact, the only drink that failed to do so was sparkling white wine or champagne. Not only did the fizzy stuff fail to act as a disinfectant, but it encouraged the growth of more bacteria — and we’re not talking the friendly kind.
Food (or drink) for thought when champagne is the go-to tipple for Ricciardo when he celebrates a F1 podium finish.