Author: Jen Martin

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 […]

Seeing in the dark

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Zoology

You’ve probably heard of echolocation. Whales, dolphins and bats all use it to find their way around when their eyes just aren’t up to the task. But did you know some blind humans have learned to do it too? Seeing with sound In the late 1700s, Italian scientist Lazzaro Spallanzani surgically blinded bats in an attempt to work out how they navigate when flying in the dark. He was amazed to discover blind bats could […]

Feeling out of the loop?

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Health / Myths / Psychology

Do you ever feel left out? That everyone else is somewhere way more exciting than you are, experiencing things far more interesting than you? That’s the Fear of Missing Out, otherwise known as FOMO. Why do you experience FOMO and what can you do about it? FOMO explained The word FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. What exactly does it mean? A recent study defined FOMO as “the uneasy and sometimes […]

The long way home

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Biology / Ecology / Evolution / Zoology

Fish do it, so do reptiles and insects. Mammals – including humans – do it too. The way some birds do it will blow your mind. We’re talking migration. Why do some animals travel around the globe and how do they find their way? And what happens when the habitat they need along the way disappears? Just keep swimming It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to writing about animal migrations: there […]

Getting in the zone

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Health / Medicine / Myths / Psychology

Time has stopped. The world around you has disappeared. You are completely immersed in whatever you’re doing. Anything is possible and you feel invincible. What’s going on in your brain when you’re ‘in the zone’? Going with the flow Do you call it being ‘in the zone’? Or perhaps ‘in the groove’? If you’ve ever felt completely engrossed in a task to the point that nothing could distract you, you’ve experienced what psychologists call ‘flow’. […]

Do I know you?

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Health / Medicine / Myths / Psychology

Are you good with faces? Would you be able to recognise someone you’ve only met once before? Some of us are better at remembering faces than others. But most of us take for granted being able to recognise our family and friends. What if you couldn’t? Face-blindness Being able to recognise my partner, kids and parents is something I completely take for granted. But for one in fifty people, it’s by no means a given. That’s how […]