Author: Jen Martin

Food fakes

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Health / Myths

We’re all aware of fake watches, sunglasses and handbags. But what about fake food? Counterfeit food is more common than you might think. Fishy business It’s estimated the fake food industry is worth more than US$40 billion each year. Seafood, coffee and oils are some of the foods most likely to be counterfeited, but it doesn’t end there. You may remember the ‘horsegate’ crisis of 2013 when it was discovered some ‘beef’ for sale in […]

Photos versus memories

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Myths / Psychology

How many photos have you snapped on your phone in the last year? A lot, if you’re anything like most of us. But how well do you remember the actual places and events in the photos? Research suggests you would remember much more if you’d left your phone in your pocket and just enjoyed the moment. Photos, photos everywhere Every day around the world, we take billions of photos. Gone are the days of carefully […]

Counting friends

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Psychology

First: check how many friends you have on Facebook. Next: ask yourself how many of them you consider to be ‘real’ friends? According to Dunbar’s number, we can only maintain about 150 meaningful relationships at one time. And you can probably count your closest friends on one hand. Your social brain Robin Dunbar has spent nearly 50 years studying primates. Back in the 90s, he looked at the relationship between group size and brain size […]

Hearing colours, tasting words

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Genetics / Health / Medicine / Psychology

Imagine every time you hear the word chair, your mouth fills with the taste of strawberries. Or to you, Tuesdays are red and the letter T is male, light blue, trustworthy and loyal. Sound strange? Welcome to the fascinating world of synaesthesia. Blended senses If someone scratches a blackboard with his or her nails, I taste iron. The intro of “Time” by Pink Floyd is golden yellow and blue.   One synaesthete’s experiences Scientists have […]

Number nerves

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Mathematics / Myths / Psychology

Does the thought of a maths test bring you out in a cold sweat? Maths anxiety is real. But why do so many people find maths stressful, and what can we do about it? Not a maths person Imagine you’re sitting in a classroom, about to take a mathematics test. How do you feel? Stressed? Tense? Nervous? Wishing you could escape? Sounds like maths anxiety. If you’re not sure, you can take a maths anxiety […]

How doors make us forget

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Myths / Psychology

You’ve just walked into a room with a clear purpose in mind. Except now you can’t remember what it was you set out to do. Is it just your imagination, or does walking into a different room make you forget? Memories We all forget things. And most of us have had the experience of walking into a room and feeling confused. Maybe you’ve just gone into the kitchen to find your keys, but by the time […]

A cosmic perspective

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Astronomy / Psychology

“Something happens to you out there” said Apollo 14 pilot Edgar Mitchell. “We went to the moon as technicians; we returned as humanitarians”. Astronauts who have seen the Earth from space come back describing a major shift in how they see the world and their place in it. Is there any way for the rest of us to experience the same transformation? The pale blue dot Exactly 28 years ago today, the Voyager 1 Spacecraft […]

Mosquito magnets

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Genetics / Health / Medicine / Myths / Zoology

Are you irresistible to mosquitos? We all know someone who gets covered in bites every time they venture outside. Why are some of us so much tastier than others? The deadliest animals Only female mosquitos bite: they need the protein that comes from a blood meal to make their eggs. But there are thousands of species of mosquito, and they have different ideas about who and what is tasty. Some prefer birds, some frogs, some […]

Oldest, youngest, middle or only?

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

Are you a rebellious youngest child, a responsible first-born, or perhaps a people-pleasing middle child? Much has been said about how birth order affects personality and intelligence. Is there any truth to the stereotypes? Neurotic, spoiled or independent? Personalities are interesting things. We like to understand our own personalities and wonder how hard it might be to change our personality. We want to know if it’s possible to predict personality, for example on the basis […]

Watch my space

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

We all have a bubble around us, a sense of personal space we don’t like to have invaded. How close are you happy to stand next to a friend? A stranger? And how is your comfort zone influenced by your nationality? Invisible bubbles Remember Elaine’s ‘close talker’ boyfriend on Seinfeld, who stood too close? So close that Kramer fell over trying to get away? Most of us have experienced meeting someone who just doesn’t seem […]