Author: Jen Martin

Imposters are us

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Health / Myths / Psychology

Have you ever felt like a fraud? That you aren’t good enough, experienced enough or smart enough to be doing what you’re doing? Join the club. Feeling like a phoney On the outside you appear confident, composed and on top of your game. But on the inside you are wracked with self-doubt. You feel like a fraud and as though someone is about to tap you on the shoulder and ask you what you think […]

It’s a seasonal thing

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Health / Myths / Psychology

We all know horoscopes are bunk. But research suggests the season you were born may say something about you after all. What’s your star sign? Is checking your horoscope a guilty pleasure? Most of us agree: there’s no science behind the star sign columns that abound in newspapers, magazines and online. But that doesn’t mean people don’t read them. One study found more than 20% of adults read their horoscope often. There’s also been plenty […]

To eat it or not to eat it?

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Biology / Health / Myths

We’ve all heard the five-second rule: as long as the food has been on the ground for less than five seconds, you’re  safe to eat it. But are you? Birth of an urban myth When it comes to the origin of the five-second rule, stories abound. Genghis Khan often stars in these accounts, with claims it was originally known as the Khan rule. This rule apparently came into play at 13th-century victory banquets when Khan […]

Who is watching you?

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Health / Myths / Psychology

Ever had the creepy feeling someone was staring at you, only to turn around and discover it was true? Is it possible to ‘feel’ someone watching you? I see you They say the eyes are the windows to the soul: eye contact is one of the most powerful forms of human communication. Unlike all other primates, human eyes make it extremely obvious which direction we are looking: the exposed white area around the coloured iris gives […]

Itchy and scratchy

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Evolution / Health / Myths

We all know the sweet relief that comes from scratching an itch. But why does scratching feel so good? And why does it make the itch worse? Why so itchy? An itch is simply a sensation on the skin leading to the desire to scratch. But the science of itching is far from simple – it’s been the subject of decades of research (there’s even a scientific research journal called Itch). Researchers discovered the first […]

By the light of the full moon

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Astronomy / Health / Myths / Psychology

Known as the Transylvania Effect, many people believe a full moon triggers strange behaviour. Crime rates, psychiatric hospital admissions, emergency room visits, dog bites and hyperactivity in kids are all said to increase during a full moon. Is there any truth to the rumours? Bad moon rising We can thank the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna, for the words lunatic and lunacy. Why the link between the moon and erratic behaviour? Aristotle and Pliny […]

Scaling great heights

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Anthropology / Evolution / Genetics / Health / Myths

Sherpas – sometimes called superhumans – are extraordinary mountaineers who are at home in the peaks of the Himalayas. What is it about Sherpas that enables them to power on at such high altitude? The top of the world Standing at 8,848 m above sea level, the peak of Mt. Everest is not a welcoming place for humans. We need oxygen, and up there, oxygen levels are only a third of those found at sea […]

Early learning

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Zoology

Love spicy food? Find certain songs calming? You started developing preferences for flavours and sounds while you were still in the womb.  And it’s not just us: many animals begin learning about the world around them before they’re even born. Listening from the inside Before you were born, you had a lot to listen to. There was the regular thumping of your mother’s heart, the blood whooshing through her body, and even the rumbling and […]

Is training your brain just a game?

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Health / Medicine / Myths / Psychology

Want to be smarter and better at concentrating? Want to improve your memory and protect yourself against dementia? Brain-training programs promise all this and more – but do they work? Do brain-training games make you smarter? Image credit: dire schaefer via Flickr The claims The logic behind brain training is simple. Carry out a mental task repeatedly, and you get better at it. It could be memorising a string of numbers, or fitting together a […]

Take an espresso nap

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Health / Myths / Psychology

Do you like coffee? Do you like naps? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you’re going to like what’s coming next. Research shows that combining the two – a coffee nap – is even better than each on its own. Coffee, glorious coffee There’s plenty of evidence for the health benefits of coffee (unless, like me, you’re allergic to caffeine!). Among other positive effects, drinking coffee may protect you against some nasty […]