The More We Think, The More Selfish We Are

A study from Harvard University has found that the more time we are given to think, the more selfish our decisions become.

Scientists performed ten separate studies on cooperation and the effect it had on various participants. The goal of the experiments was to understand whether we are inherently selfish or greedy.

Many of the studies used Amazon Mechanical Turk (an online labor market that pays workers for ‘quick jobs’) to gauge generosity as it relates to response time, and for the sake of having a highly diverse pool of participants.

212 participants were paid 40 cents for a ‘quick job’ and asked to contribute whatever amount they wanted to a communal pool that would be doubled by the researchers and divvied up among the participants. The researchers compared the time it took to make a decision with the amount contributed. The longer people took to decide, the less they put into the pool.

Here’s the really interesting part:

The researchers conducted a variation of this study, but manipulated the amount of time people had in which to decide how much to donate. One group of subjects had to make their decisions within ten seconds; other subjects had to wait ten seconds before they were allowed to contribute anything, and third group of participants had no time constraints at all. The researchers found that subjects under time pressure gave significantly more money than either those that had to wait or those that were unconstrained. Participants in the ‘time-delay’ condition were the least generous, donating significantly less money than those in the other two groups.

Researchers stated that this same behavior can be viewed when money is involved, or when simply playing a game. The studies seem to suggest that greed is just an afterthought, that we are instinctively generous, but rational thought turns us into Orwellian pigs.

So, does this mean we are all genetically generous, divine creatures, corrupted by materialism and competition?  Probably not. Researchers noted that

“Nurture may play an important role here. Humans are reared in a generally cooperative society where we engage in repeated interactions with people we know, and where our reputations are important. Under these conditions, we likely learn that cooperation is the best way to proceed, and subsequently act this way instinctively.”

The test results are clear, but the conclusions remain a mystery.  What do you think?

 

Sources:

Ars Technica: Cooperation comes easily but thinking makes us selfish

Nature.com: Spontaneous Giving and Calculated Greed

Amazon Mechanical Turk

 

 

Hairy Men Everywhere Rejoice: New Bandages Painlessly Remove From Skin

To science! Finally, a problem that has plagued hairy men and monkey-children everywhere has been solved: bandages are now painless to remove!

In an innovation surprisingly not realized before, this new-style of medical tape separates the adhesive layer and the top protective layers allowing your skin to not come along with it. Whatever adhesive is left becomes easy to remove with a simple flick of your fingernail.

I may have worded it lightly, but the problem of sticky bandages is more than uncomfortable – it has shown to scar the skin of infants and can even injure the elderly. In 2006, the Institute for Pediatric Innovation (IPI) began collecting data from practitioners and medical workers about their most common after-treatment injuries. The data is surprising – a total of 1.5 million events were reported in just one year related to medical tape.

Don Lombardi, CEO of the IPI succinctly states:

When you take the tape off, you take the skin off. It’s very painful, obviously, and it scars them. Some end up with months of aftercare for lesions on their skin due to the tape.

The best part about the technology is that it already exists, so it is easy to start high-scale production. Jeffrey Karp, who’s work at Harvard Medical School was paramount in developing the product, states:

All of the processes are already in place: to place the adhesive layer, to place release liners onto surfaces, and to assemble the adhesive. We really see this as a solution that can be rapidly translated to the clinic, to immediately reduce complications from adhesives…

Sooner rather than later, please. I’m well past the age of unhairiness.

Sources:

io9: Finally Science Invents a Painless Bandaid!

MIT: Taking the Sting Out of Medical Tape

Mystery of the Dying/Disappearing Honeybees Solved

Colony Collapse Disorder is a serious threat to commercial, and many wild honeybees around the world.  Scientists have been scratching their head trying to understand why so many honeybees are disappearing,  abandoning their hive and subjecting their queens to painful starvation and death.  Is it an all out bee revolution? Actually, new studies are pointing the finger at a class of pesticide called  neonicotinoids.

These pesticides, known as ‘neonics’ are used widely throughout the US and are also staples in home gardening products. The chemicals are a nerve poison to insects, and is likely responsible for the bees not being able to find their way back home.

The evidence is overwhelming.  Harvard even recreated massive colony collapse by administering minuscule amounts of a popular neonic to a hive.

Researchers at Harvard state that,

“There is no question that neonicotinoids put a huge stress on the survival of honey bees in the environment. The evidence is clear that imidacloprid [one of the most popular neonics on the market] is likely the culprit for Colony Collapse Disorder via a very unique mechanism that has not been reported until our study.”

That mechanism is high fructose corn syrup, which did not affect bees until it was mixed with the neonic in 2004 -2005. The very next year massive Colony Collapse Disorder began to affect the US.

Poor agricultural practices like monoculture, massive land development, and GMO planting may also be factors contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Many countries, including Poland, France, and Germany have begun banning pesticides linked to bee deaths and have seen dramatic improvements in the overall health of their bees.  Colony Collapse Disorder is a warning, and if we act quickly to solve the problem, it will not bee too late.

It is unknown whether Einstein actually said it, but there is a famous quote usually credited to him that holds a great amount of truth nonetheless:

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.”

Time to alter our farming practices and get these agricultural monopolies out of our back pockets.  Why not empty our pockets all together!?

Killer Egg Yolks

3 egg yolks

3 egg yolks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent research study has claimed that eating egg yolks is almost as bad for health as smoking. In this shocking turn of events researchers realized that one of America’s favorite breakfast foods is actually bad for health.

Lead researcher Dr. David Spence, from the University of Western Ontario, has come up with some prudent results for our day and age. In the article

“Spence added the effect of egg yolk consumption over time on increasing the amount of plaque in the arteries was independent of sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes.”

Well, that looks like a smoking gun to me, but is that the whole story? There are doctors who say it’s not.

Dr. Jonny Bowden thinks this study is totally invalid. You can read his article to find out why, but the main point is it’s only a correlation, not causation. He also says it’s totally contrary to previous scientific study from Harvard. However from where I’m sitting that previous research seems to suggest  literally states that

“These findings suggest that consumption of up to 1 egg per day is unlikely to have substantial overall impact on the risk of CHD or stroke among healthy men and women. The apparent increased risk of CHD associated with higher egg consumption among diabetic participants warrants further research”

If the findings only “suggest” a conclusion and one small group of scientists think something “is unlikely” that sounds pretty inconclusive to me. In addition to those conclusions sounding wishy washy, the study wasn’t looking at egg yolks. It’s focus was whole eggs. An excellent article written on the Harvard School of Public Health Website (which is also who did the original study) notes that this study does not show a correlation between eggs and Coronary Heart Disease (CDH), but notes that too few of the women involved in the study ate more than an egg a day to determine anything regarding higher egg intakes. The article also points out that the nutrients present in whole eggs are beneficial to  health and may be counteracting any negative effects the eggs may have. Not only that but

“…eggs can take the place of other breakfast foods that have adverse effects, such as white toast with butter. “

So it looks like the first article only found correlation, not causation. Okay let’s take that into consideration, it’s not definitive evidence. And Dr. Jonny Bowden seems to be twisting the Harvard study to say that it definitively proves the opposite (maybe hoping no one would follow the link and look at the study?) However the approach Harvard takes to it’s own research is objective and critical of the results. It’s actual science. They admit there are good things and bad things about eggs, but is eating an egg yolk specifically bad for us? Well it looks like the jury’s still out on that one.

Controversial “Killer” Egg Yolks

 

A  research study by Western University Canada has claimed that eating egg yolks is almost as bad for health as smoking. In this shocking turn of events researchers realized that one of America’s favorite breakfast foods might  actually be bad for health.

Lead researcher Dr. David Spence, from the University of Western Ontario, has come up with some prudent results for our day and age. In the article

“Spence added the effect of egg yolk consumption over time on increasing the amount of plaque in the arteries was independent of sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes.”

Well, that looks like a smoking gun to me, but is that the whole story? There are doctors who say it’s not.

Dr. Jonny Bowden thinks this study is totally invalid. You can read his articleto find out why, but the main point is it’s only a correlation, not causation. He also says it’s totally contrary to previous scientific study from Harvard. However from where I’m sitting that previous research seems to suggest  literally states that

“These findings suggest that consumption of up to 1 egg per day is unlikely to have substantial overall impact on the risk of CHD or stroke among healthy men and women. The apparent increased risk of CHD associated with higher egg consumption among diabetic participants warrants further research”

If the findings only “suggest” a conclusion and one small group of scientists think something “is unlikely” that sounds pretty inconclusive to me. In addition to those conclusions sounding wishy washy, the study wasn’t looking at egg yolks. It’s focus was whole eggs. An excellent article written on the Harvard School of Public Health Website (which is also who did the original study) notes that this study does not show a correlation between eggs and Coronary Heart Disease (CDH), but notes that too few of the women involved in the study ate more than an egg a day to determine anything regarding higher egg intakes. The article also points out that the nutrients present in whole eggs are beneficial to  health and may be counteracting any negative effects the eggs may have. Not only that but

“…eggs can take the place of other breakfast foods that have adverse effects, such as white toast with butter. “

So it looks like the first article only found correlation, not causation. Okay let’s take that into consideration, it’s not definitive evidence. And Dr. Jonny Bowden seems to be twisting the Harvard study to say that it definitively proves the opposite (maybe hoping no one would follow the link and look at the study?) However the approach Harvard takes to it’s own research is objective and critical of the results. It’s actual science. They admit there are good things and bad things about eggs, but is eating an egg yolk specifically bad for us? Well it looks like the jury’s still out on that one.

 

 

 

Sources:

Western News: Research finds egg yolks almost as bad as smoking

HuffNews: Egg Yolks: As Bad as Smoking? About That Study…

Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good

Harvard School of Public Health

Self-Camouflaging Soft Robots

 

Researchers at Harvard have created the first self-camouflaging soft robot. The robot is mobile and has the ability to recognize the color of its environment and mimic the surrounding colors.  Using pumped microfluids, the robot is able to quickly hide itself within its environment.

The robot must be tethered to a central control system which pumps the liquids into its transparent body.  It is able to alter its colors with great specificity in approximately 30 seconds.

As the robot only costs $100 per unit to produce, it is a very cheap method for military operations requiring mobile stealth.

Of course, it will go to the military first.  I wonder when we will be able to implement this fluid adaptability in our cars.

Self-Camouflaging Soft Robot

self-camouflaging soft robot changing colors

http://scitechdaily.com/ A self-camouflaging soft robot

Researchers at Harvard have created the first self-camouflaging soft robot. The robot is mobile and has the ability to recognize the color of its environment and mimic the surrounding colors.  Using pumped microfluids, the robot is able to quickly hide itself within its environment.

The self-camouflaging soft robot must be tethered to a central control system which pumps the liquids into its transparent body.  It is able to alter its colors with great specificity in approximately 30 seconds.

As this amazing self-camouflaging soft robot only costs $100 per unit to produce, it is a very cheap method for military operations requiring mobile stealth.

Of course, it will go to the military first.  I wonder when we will be able to implement this fluid adaptability in our cars.

 

 

Sources:

SciTechDaily: DARPA & Harvard’s Soft, Self-Camouflaging Robot

Meet the Needle Beam, No More Signal Loss

 

Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have created an entirely new way to send light beams called the ‘needle beam.‘  They are able to send a beam of light at an unprecedented distance without any loss of information.

While all waves naturally spread, the needle beam, or cosine-Gauss plasmon beam, propagates in incredibly tight confinement along a metallic surface.  The propagation remains so confined that the beam has redefined what researchers believed was mathematically possible.  The discovery will lead to ultra fast communication with little to no loss of signal.

First quantum teleportation, and now the needle beam.  The future just keeps getting faster every day.

Good bye loading-hour-glass… farewell waiting!

Meet the Needle Beam; No More Signal Loss

phonerpt.com

phonerpt.com

Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have created an entirely new way to send light beams called the ‘needle beam.’  They are able to send a beam of light at an unprecedented distance without any loss of information.

While all waves naturally spread, the needle beam, or cosine-Gauss plasmon beam, propagates in incredibly tight confinement along a metallic surface.  The propagation remains so confined that the beam has redefined what researchers believed was mathematically possible.  The discovery will lead to ultra fast communication with little to no loss of signal.

First quantum teleportation, and now the needle beam.  The future just keeps getting faster every day.

Good bye loading-hour-glass… farewell waiting!

 

Sources

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: Needle beam could eliminate signal loss in on-chip optics

Long Distance Quantum Teleportation is Reality

Soft Robots Grip Things Gently

Researchers at Harvard University have created a robot tentacle that has a soft touch. It can grab objects with delicate care. The robot tentacle allows for flexibility and a myriad of directional possibilities. This particular robot is one in a series of robots being developed at Harvard. It can manage objects as fragile as flowers, and I’m thinking, what lovely lady wouldn’t love her flowers delivered by a nice compliant robot tentacle?

The future is looking pretty lithe if you ask me.