Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

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

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

The Five Second Rule Works Best on Carpet

The “five second rule” is an unofficial pass to eat food dropped on the floor—provided only a few seconds have elapsed. The general wisdom is that it takes several seconds for bacteria to transfer to the food item, making it safe to eat if picked up quickly. In one survey, 87% of people admitted to eating dropped food at least once. The five second rule was never backed up by science but some researchers have decided to test the idea.

food_on_keyboard

In the first major study, researchers tracked the transfer of common bacteria, including E.coli, to food after it had been dropped. They found that carpet was less likely to transfer bacteria than smooth surfaces. While moist foods could become colonized within seconds, most foods were declared safe. For dry snacks, such as cookies, it could take 30 seconds or longer for bacteria to show up. The researchers decided that the five second rule works—in specific cases. (more…)

October 22, 2016 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Placebos Work Even When Patients Know They’re Taking Placebos

A placebo is a sugar pill or similarly ineffective treatment used in medical studies. The placebo acts as a control for comparison when studying the effectiveness of a proposed treatment. Often, patients will notice some improvement in their condition even when taking a placebo. This phenomenon is called the “placebo effect” and recent research is increasing scientists’ understanding of these events.

pills

Deception isn’t necessary

Originally, it was believed that placebos only worked because patients thought they were being treated. In one study, patients with irritable bowel syndrome were treated with placebos. One group was told they were given a placebo with no additional information. The other group was also given placebos but the pills were described as follows:

“Placebo pills made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes.”

Both groups showed some improvement but the group given more information had significantly higher global improvement scores. The authors concluded, “Placebos administered without deception may be an effective treatment for IBS.”

The reverse phenomenon is called the “nocebo effect”

If a patient doesn’t think a treatment will be effective, they may experience a worsening of symptoms. This has been called the “nocebo effect” in medical literature. The effect can also be caused by doctors and other clinical staff. If the doctor feels negatively about a treatment or mentions likely side effects, it may affect the patient’s perception. This can cause an ethical dilemma. Doctors are required to properly inform patients of possible side effects or risks. Emphasizing the negative aspects of a treatment may make it less effective, however. More communication training in medical school may help physicians keep patients informed while also framing treatments in a positive way.

How a placebo is administered may change the effects

Some placebos work better than others and the method of administration can increase or decrease effectiveness. In one study, large placebo pills were found to be more effective than small ones and two doses worked better than a single dose. Sham surgeries and injections tend to elicit a stronger placebo effect than a sugar pill. In one study, a sham surgery was just as effective as an actual arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (a surgery used to treat knee osteoarthritis).

Placebos can be considered a viable treatment

Placebos are so effective in certain cases that some researchers have begun to recommend them as treatments. In an analysis of 130 placebo studies, one research team concluded that while placebos don’t work for many diseases, they were effective for pain. Placebos successfully treated pain in 27 different studies of various sample sizes.

Interestingly, placebos can also help treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. There have been multiple studies but one in particular stands out. Patients showed significant improvement when they were treated using deep brain stimulation, a technique that involves stimulating the brain with electrical impulses. The treatment was only effective when patients were also given a placebo and told that it was an “antiparkinsonian drug”. Patients who didn’t receive a placebo showed little to no improvement. A similar experiment was later conducted with identical results.

The placebo effect is still poorly understood and the use of a placebo can raise ethical concerns. Placebos may help treat pain, for example, but informed consent prevents a doctor from prescribing sugar pills. At the very least, placebo research provides insights into how expectation and perception can affect the outcome of medical treatments.

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Photo: Victor

Sources: book, nih.gov, jneurosci.org, aerzteblatt.de, nejm.org, nejm.org, sciencedirect.com, sciencemag.org, psychiatryonline.org, bmj.com

October 8, 2016 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Xmas Is Not About Taking Christ Out of Christmas

By Chad Upton | Editor

Shortening Christmas to Xmas has been used since the 16th century and it’s not an attempt by secular culture to remove Christ from Christmas. It can actually be traced back to religious documents themselves and has history in etymology and practical applications.

Here’s an advertisement from a 1922 issue of the Ladies Home Journal:

xmas

Before the 16th century, Christ was frequently written as Xρ. Xρ kind of looks like Greek doesn’t it? It is. The Greek word for Christ is Χριστός, well it actually means “anointed” but it translates to English as Christ. The shortened version; Xρ, is just the first two letters.

Of course, the new testament was written in Greek, so it’s easy to see how this all started. Later, Xρ was further shortened to just X — that’s how we get Xmas. The X was also used in “Xtian”, a short form of “Christian”.

But, why not just type or write out Christmas or Christian?

Back when printing presses were first developed, typesetters had limited space to work with and a limited number of characters available, so they saved characters whenever possible. Although the abbreviations existed before the moveable type printing press, the abbreviations became much more popular because of them. Some of the most popular documents to print were bibles, so abbreviations were very important to printing bibles efficiently and cost effectively.

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Sources: wikipedia (xmas), Christian Resource Institute

December 5, 2013 at 2:00 am 5 comments

Target Sale Prices Ending in 4 are at Final Mark Down

By Chad Upton

If you find a great clearance price at a Target store, pay attention to the final digit in the price. Often, clearance prices end in 4 or 8. But, the 4 is the most important one to remember  — if it ends in a 4 then it won’t be marked down any further and if it ends in anything else then it can be marked down further.

target_clearance

The number in the top right corner of the price tag is the % savings.

Waiting for a future markdown is a bit of a gamble since someone else may buy the item in the meantime. Knowing the markdown schedule can help you determine the right time to buy:

  • Monday: Electronics, Kids Clothing, Accessories, Books, Baby and Stationery
  • Tuesday: Women’s Clothing, Pets, Food, Domestics
  • Wednesday: Diapers, Lawn/Garden, Furniture, Men’s Clothing, Health and Beauty
  • Thursday: Toys, Housewares, Luggage, Lingerie, Sporting Goods, Footwear and Decor
  • Friday: Cosmetics, Automotive, Jewelry and Hardware

If the item is in a department that is scheduled to be marked down the next day, you may want to check back if you’re in the area.

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Sources: AllThingsTarget.com

October 4, 2013 at 2:00 am 1 comment

Why Watches are Set to 10:10 in Adverts

Once a fundamental tool, the wrist watch is now an accessory more than necessity.

The ubiquity of cellphones eliminated the need for watches on most people’s wrists. However, smart watches that accompany smartphones may catalyze a revival in wrist watches. Although these new fangled smart watches can emulate the analog hands of a traditional timepiece, they lack verisimilitude.

sony-smart-watch

If you’re looking for the real thing, you may notice almost all analog wrist watches are photographed with a time of 10:10. The time doesn’t have any special meaning, it’s just aesthetics. The manufacturer’s logo is typically below 12 o’clock and the hands at 10 and 2 frame the logo proportionally and draw the readers eyes toward the logo itself.

watces

One exception is chronograph watches. Since they often have multiple dials, the logo may not be top and center and/or the hands may be moved to a position that doesn’t block other dials.

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June 3, 2013 at 2:00 am 13 comments


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