Showing posts from February, 2015

Teachers: Get Better Grades? Make Them Compete

Does your daughter expect a D on the algebra test?  No matter the amount of studying, she will probably get it.

Not because she's dumb.  Because somehow kids' expectations of how they will do in a class actually affect the outcome, according to a new study.

Research has shown that what a student expects to learn and how they expect to do in a class actually has an impact on their learning, professor Angela King has found.

For example, she says at, a student might take a divisional class and assume they will get an A because it’s viewed as their “easy” class. “They are already calculating their GPA based on that A and will do whatever it takes to get that A, while a student who takes a class perceived as more difficult, like an organic chemistry course, just wants to pass the class.”

And sometimes that means they settle for a C, she added, when a little more effort or an alternative study method could help them improve their learning, and their grade.


It's True. Lattes Spill Less Than Coffee

Who knew?  Latte lovers rejoice.  You're far less likely to spill this sweet sip of this beverage than a coffee.


It's the foam.

According to a new study, scientists have found that just a few layers of bubbles can significantly dampen the sloshing motion of liquid. They actually stumbled upon this when looking into safer transport of liquefied gas in trucks and propellants in rocket engines.

Researchers studying the problem accidentally solved it with beer, initially.  "While I was studying for my Ph.D. in the south of France, we were in a pub, and we noticed that when we were carrying a pint of Guinness, which is a very foamy beer, the sloshing almost didn't happen at all," says Alban Sauret, who is currently a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at

The scientists took their observations from the coffeehouse and the pub to the laboratory, where they built an apparatus to test the damping power of foam …

Getting the Job: Is It All in the Voice?

Who knew?  Your voice may be the key to getting a new job.  Or, more specifically, its pitch.

It turns out that the way your voice sounds to potential recruiters and employers can have a positive -- or negative -- effect.  It seems a person’s speech may convey their fundamental ability to think — the capacity for reasoning, thoughtfulness and intellect.  Simply put, a job seeker's voice may reveal his intelligence. At least, that's the finding of a new study.

Of course, that's also taking into consideration the contents of one's mind, and communicating them clearly, like specific thoughts and beliefs (though if you use your voice to talk about how much you hate math and the job's about accounting, maybe not so much).

When hypothetical employers and professional recruiters listened to or read candidates' job qualifications, they rated the candidates as more competent, thoughtful and intelligent when they heard the pitch of their voices than when they just rea…

Preteens Who Take Risks Are Better?

I've always wished that my son would be more daring.  When he was a little boy, his best friend climbed trees (to the top), snowboarded only on slopes marked with black diamonds, and wasn't afraid to trade barbs with kids who were 20 pounds heavier and meaner.

Instead, Phillip would stand anxiously by, ready to call 911.

I've always loved that about him, that he's a caretaker, but I also, at times when he was smaller, found myself hoping that he'd be just a tad more open to risk.  I'm not talking skydiving or swimming in a thunderstorm, but  riding a bike with the training wheels off?

But that's just who he is.  A teacher recently described him as "very cerebral," and maybe people who think a lot about what can go wrong don't do things that may be dangerous

This winter he's been scared when I go running.  Last year I fell on the ice and broke my wrist.  "You're actually going running?" he says nervously to me as the snow fal…

The Future of the World May Be in Our Hands - Or, at Least, in a Good Man!

I've always loved my husband's hands.  Thin and long-fingered, they're delicate, like a sculptor's or a pianist's, and yet strong, too.  (He's yanked many a tooth in his career.)

Now experts are saying that you can tell a lot about a man by looking at his hands. Not to be confused with other parts of his body!

But men with short index fingers and long ring fingers are on average nicer towards women, and this stems -- believe it or not -- from the hormones these men have been exposed to in their mother’s womb, according to a new study by researchers at McGill University.  Something new to blame mothers for!

Men with these kinds of hands also tend to have more children. That's not entirely clear but there's a definite link between fetal life and adult behavior.

 “It is fascinating to see that moderate variations of hormones before birth can actually influence adult behaviour in a selective way,” says Simon Young, a McGill Emeritus Professor in Psych…

Unemployed Long-Term? Your Personality May Change

Big news. Unemployment can change a person.  But maybe not in the ways you might think.

I was unemployed twice and it wasn't pretty.  It was actually quite depressing.  Both times happened in my 20s, and I wound up with better jobs eventually.  But only after a very long, dark period in my life.

The first time, I was let go from a large company that manufactured chemicals -- pesticides, household cleaners, that kind of thing.  I actually flew around the country to interview farmers on their use of agricultural chemicals.  No surprise it didn't work out.  Of course it didn't help that the owner of the company tried to sexually harass me and I had nowhere to turn.  Come to think of it, that's why I lost the first job, too.  In those days you got away with it.

Then I got one of my favorite jobs, working as an editor for Good Housekeeping magazine.  It was a temporary position and they let me go after six months, due to office politics (the top editor wasn't consulted …

Sex Saves Lives. Really.

Who knew?  Sex can save your life.

 It's really quite simple, but in its own way, beautiful.  Mixing our genes helps weed out gene mutations that cause disease.

You've probably been hearing about all these amazing discoveries scientists have been making about how mutations in our genes can lead to cancer and other diseases.  Mutations are the things that make our cells not do what they're supposed to.  Researchers have found mutations that lead to breast cancer, and though only about 10% of cancers are inherited, and there are hundreds of thousands of mutations that can lead to it, it's at least a start at identifying where cancer comes from, and how it starts. And, best of all, what to do if you have one, before it develops into cancer, like the test for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation that tells a woman she is at high risk of breast cancer. 

Our predispositions to disease gradually decrease the more we mix our genetic material together, according to a new study…

Air Pollution and Suicide: A Connection?

Air pollution and suicide.

Did you know there's a connection?

According to a new study, a growing body of research links air pollution exposure to suicide, reports..

Researchers found an increased risk of suicide associated with short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter among Salt Lake City residents who died by suicide between 2000 to 2010. In particular, men and Salt Lake City residents between 36 to 64 years of age experienced the highest risk of suicide following short-term air pollution exposure.

“We are not exactly sure why risk of suicide was higher in these two groups but suspect that it might be because these two groups were either exposed to higher levels of air pollution or that other additional factors make these two groups more susceptible to the effects of air pollution,” says author Amanda Bakian, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah.

The odds of completing suicide were 20 percent highe…

Oh, You Poor Red Wine Drinkers

Now this is going to make a lot of people really unhappy (unless you're over 50).

But a new study has found that the benefits of red wine as they pertain to a longer life have been severely overstated, according to

Researchers analyzed data on the drinking habits of over 52,000 adults who were interviewed about their average weekly alcohol consumption, as well as how much they drank in one day. They found “little to no” health benefits of drinking alcohol, regardless of how much or little someone drank.  Any protective benefits of alcohol seemed limited to men between ages 50 and 64, and women age 65 and over.

But don't despair!  Former drinkers — some of whom were once heavy drinkers — were lumped in with people who had never been drinkers and labeled as “non-drinkers,” which could affect the results.
 “There’s still much more work to be done on isolating the true effect of alcohol consumption on health,” study researcher Craig Knott tells Yahoo He…

Happy Words vs. Sad Words Used -- Happy Wins

Pretty hard to believe, with all the f-bombs and other four-letter words flying around.  But did you know that human beings lean towards expressing themselves in positive words rather than negative ones?

According to new research, probably all human language skews toward the use of happy words, reports. This includes newspapers, magazines, TV news.  I guess, even blogs.

"We looked at 10 languages,” says UVM mathematician Peter Dodds who co-led the study, “and in every source we looked at, people use more positive words than negative ones.”

This huge study of the “atoms of language—individual words,” Dodds says, indicates that language itself—perhaps humanity’s greatest technology—has a positive outlook. And, therefore, “it seems that positive social interaction,” it is built into its fundamental structure.

I beg to differ.  Taking a quick look at the leading headlines at, "Three Killed at UNC,"  "Bush Aide Resigns After Offensive Tweets,&q…

Mr. Right or Mr. Okay? New Study Says Go For the Second One

The more things change, the more they remain the same.  Remember when all the sages were saying, wait for Mr. Right, no matter how long it takes, rather than settle for something (-one) less?  Well now, they're all saying it's okay to go for Mr. Second Best.

I've been very lucky.  I met someone I knew I wanted to marry the night I met him.  Of course, it took ten years to get him to the altar, but I've never been one to settle.  And it certainly hasn't been all wine and roses but knowing now how hard marriage is, there's no way I would have survived this long (31 years in March), if I'd had to go through these struggles with someone I only slightly cared for.

I remember, right before meeting my husband, how I'd come off a disastrous relationship with an older (married) man, only to meet a guy through friends who really wasn't my type, but he was nice and we seemed to get along.  So I began dating him, and before I knew it, we were in a relationship…

Live Longer and Jog? Slow Down

Here I was, killing myself to run a 10-minute mile, and now, new research is saying the slower you jog, the longer you live.

We've all been taken in by the idea that the more intense exercise is, the better it is for us.  But this new study, according to The New York Times, has found that "slow runners come out ahead."

Gretchen Reynolds writes that the ideal amount of running for someone who wants to live a long and healthy life is less than most of us might expect, according to this study, which also suggests that people can overdo strenuous exercise and potentially shorten their lives.

 So, what's the deal?

There is increasing consensus among physicians and exercise scientists that people should exercise intensely at least sometimes, she points out. Past studies have found, for instance, that walkers who move at a brisk pace tend to live longer than those who stroll, even if they cover about the same distance.

A similar study with cyclists came up with the sam…

Keep Your Friends Close. . . Your Enemies Closer?

You know the old saying, keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer?

A new study has found that encouraging adversaries to have more interpersonal contact to find common ground may work on occasion, but not necessarily in the U.S. Senate, according to new research, as reported at

 Researchers studied the interactions among U.S. senators from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Senators either moved closer together or further apart in their voting behavior as a function of their political identities and how much contact they had with each other. This pattern was especially pronounced when contact occurred in Senate committees that were more divided.

“Conventional wisdom says interpersonal contact between people will foster collaboration and consensus,” says co-author Sameer B. Srivastava, assistant professor, Haas Management of Organizations Group at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “We found that increasing physical contact between people who have opposing a…

Men and Women: Are We Really So Different?

Pretty funny. I've heard this before.  Men and women aren't really so different.  A new study claims again that's true.

According to, an Iowa State University (ISU) study has found that, in reality, men and women are more alike than we may think.  Gender stereotypes can influence beliefs and create the impression that the differences are large, says Zlatan Krizan, an associate professor of psychology at ISU.

 Aggregated studies that included 12 million people "found an almost 80 percent overlap for more than 75 percent of the psychological characteristics researched, such as risk taking, occupational stress and morality.

So, are we really more alike than unlike?  In my house some of the stereotypes play out.  My husband is as ineffective with tools -- and uncomplicated repairs -- as I am.  Our handyman is sending his children through college.  And I'm not a great cook, but I'm better than he (who once asked how you turn the oven on). 

But he'…