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Melting Icebergs Don’t Cause the Sea Level to Rise

Even among people who understand that the sea level is rising due to climate change, there are still some misconceptions floating around. It makes sense that as the temperature rises, floating sea ice would begin to melt, adding extra water and raising the sea level. In reality, that’s not quite how it works and sea ice is the least of our worries.

glacier

Sea ice is melting and we’re losing icebergs that have existed for millions of years. This doesn’t cause the sea level to rise, however, because the volume of this floating ice has already been accounted for. The ice was already displacing the water and as it melts, it simply adds the same volume in a liquid form. Put a bunch of ice cubes in a full glass of water and the glass won’t overfill from the ice melting. (more…)

May 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm 2 comments

Tomatoes Lose Flavor in the Fridge

Thanks to modern refrigeration, we can keep our food fresh longer. The problem is that the cool temperatures of the fridge don’t preserve all foods equally—as much as we’d like to believe it. People tend to throw almost everything into the fridge, assuming that it can only help. In reality, not every food item is the same chemically or physically and some will actually be harmed when refrigerated. In a few cases, foods will degrade faster in the fridge and the best case scenario is often loss of flavor.

tomatoes

Tomatoes

Store-bought tomatoes never taste quite the same as tomatoes from the garden or local farm. Luckily, scientists have finally pinpointed the reason. Refrigeration actually turns off genes responsible for producing flavonoids, chemicals that contribute to the flavor of foods. When a tomato is exposed to temperatures below 54 degrees Fahrenheit, these genes begin to shut down permanently. Unfortunately, grocery store tomatoes have generally undergone refrigeration at some point, usually during the shipping process. It might be too late to save them from perpetual blandness but there’s still hope for tomatoes that were home-grown or purchased locally. Don’t store them in the fridge, just leave them on the countertop and they’ll be fine. The lost flavors from refrigeration can at least serve as a motivator for growing your own tomatoes. (more…)

April 10, 2017 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Birth Control Makes Women Blink More

Blinking is a critical function for most animals. Few of us give it much thought, however, since blinking is a spontaneous action that we have little control over—similar to breathing. Although science has revealed many of the mechanisms behind blinking, there are still some mysteries and odd inconsistencies.

eyeball

The act of blinking, which is largely controlled by the central nervous system, keeps eyes moist and free of irritants such as dust and dirt. Blinking can also take the form of a reflex response to protect the eyes from an approaching object. Even though blinking technically results in a loss of vision for a few seconds, it’s not noticeable. This is because the brain fills in the gaps—it “remembers” the scene (this is also how the brain accounts for blind spots!). In a recent study, scientists found that the brain has a second trick for reducing visual disruptions. When you blink, your eyes reposition to maintain focus on what you were looking at. The brain does this by tracking the movements of both the person and any objects that were in view. In the experiment, participants stared at a dot that slowly moved. The movement wasn’t dramatic enough for the participants to notice but the brain took note, repositioning their eyeballs to follow the dot every time they blinked. The researchers explained that this function is necessary to stabilize our vision, preventing a shaky camera effect. (more…)

March 25, 2017 at 5:14 pm Leave a comment

Eating Before Swimming Won’t Cause Cramps

Mothers have been repeating the same advice to their kids for decades: “Don’t go swimming after lunch, you’ll get cramps and drown!” Some parents have taken it a step further, declaring that it’s not even safe to bathe after eating a meal. As it turns out, there is zero truth to this “danger” and not a single person has drowned from food-induced stomach cramps.

swimmer

Origin

No one knows for sure how the myth started but the first version actually references baths, not swimming. In the early 1900s, a story popped up that warned parents about the dangers of bathing their children after a meal. The exact details varied with each version but the general idea was that a child should hold off on baths for at least one hour after eating. Over time, this myth got warped into the “no food before swimming” advice. (more…)

February 12, 2017 at 1:15 am 1 comment

There is No “Versus” in Nature Versus Nurture

The “nature versus nurture” debate is alive and well today, even though science has debunked the entire argument. This might seem surprising since people still claim that certain traits are from genetics while others are from the person’s upbringing. On one side, people theorize that genetics affect everything from a person’s personality to their medical problems. On the other side, there’s the theory that everything is determined by how a person is raised: their environment, family, and childhood experience. As with most debates, the truth lies somewhere in the middle—nature and nurture constantly interplay.

planet earth bluray

History

The concept of nature versus nurture was first popularized by John Locke, an English philosopher and doctor. He believed in the “blank slate” theory, which stated that all human behavioral traits were based on their environment and how they had been raised. Later in history, Darwinism was becoming widely accepted and this led scientists to believe that behavioral traits were due to genetics, not the individual’s environment. This theory stated that a person’s personality was caused by genes and already set in stone at birth. Both scientists and philosophers continued the nature versus nurture debate until modern times. Now, scientists generally agree that the argument is a fallacy and reality is much more complicated than genes versus environment. (more…)

January 21, 2017 at 1:50 am Leave a comment

Caffeine is an Addictive Mind-Altering Drug

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world and over 80% of Americans consume some form of the chemical daily—whether it’s from tea, coffee, or soda. Caffeinated drinks have been around for most of written history and they’re probably not going away anytime soon. Most societies embrace at least one form of caffeine and after a while, it’s easy to forget that it’s actually a drug.

caffeine powder

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant—a psychoactive drug that causes increased alertness, faster locomotion, and other mental and physical changes. “Psychoactive” tends to be associated with drugs that cause visual hallucinations but it really just means that the chemical affects a person’s mental state. Both caffeine and cannabis are mild psychoactive stimulants; alcohol is a depressant or “downer.” (more…)

December 24, 2016 at 5:50 pm Leave a comment

Dogs See Green and Blue not Black and White

When television shows and movies show events from a dog’s point of view, they usually switch to black-and-white. Dogs, like most mammals, actually do see colors—though not quite the same way humans do.

Human eyes contain photoreceptor cells called rods and cones. While both detect light, cones respond to specific wavelengths and are responsible for our color vision. Humans (and other primates) have three types of cones that can detect the red, yellow, and blue wavelengths. Dogs, on the other hand, only have two kinds of cone cells: yellow and blue. This means they have no trouble seeing shades of blue and yellow but have trouble differentiating them from red and related hues. To a dog, a red ball will simply appear to be a shade of green, similar to what a red-green colorblind human might see.

dog wearing sunglasses

People who compete with dogs in outdoor sports often recommend certain colors for equipment based on what the dog will see. Although a human may have an easy time spotting yellow agility equipment on green grass, a dog will struggle to differentiate the colors. Instead, agility experts often choose shades of blue, which will usually stand out against greens and other colors in the yellow spectrum.

Dogs mostly rely on their sense of smell and hearing, which are both superior to our human senses. They still use vision, though, and can see colors—just not as many as we can. Understanding how our pets see the world can help us make things easier for them. Utilizing contrasting colors, for example, may help a dog find a toy during fetch or improve reaction times in canine sports. One day we might finally see an accurate depiction of dog vision in media, with shades of blue and green instead of greyscale.

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photo: Adrian Smalley (CC)

sources: nih.gov, cambridge.org, usdaa.com

Shopping for a gift? Check out this bluetooth speaker comparison chart: http://www.gadgethog.com/compare/bluetooth-speakers/2016/

December 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm Leave a comment

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