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May. 21, 2013

Predicting Storms, Electroshock Therapy, Germaphiles, and More

by Jordan Davidson

Click to enlarge images
Each week we’ll round up links to science stories or studies that blow our mind, tickle our funny bone, or generally strike our fancy.
 
Staying Ahead of the Storm
Hurricanes can be tracked from a long way off, allowing people time to prepare or evacuate an area. Tornadoes, on the other hand, are tricky—people have only about 13 minutes to prepare before they strike. To buy more time, scientists from around the country are collaborating on an improved warning system to forecast when and where tempests such as thunderstorms and twisters are likely to hit.
 
Electroshock Therapy for Better SAT Scores?
Forget Kaplan test prep courses. An electric pulse to the brain may help students improve their math skills. British researchers reported in Current Biology that students improved their speed and accuracy on arithmetic tasks after a five-day course of gentle electric shocks to the brain.
 
Not Just a Drop in the Bucket
Scientists working on the world’s largest particle collider in Switzerland created what might be the smallest liquid drops ever made in a lab. The droplets—the size of three to five protons, or one-100,000,000th the size of a virus—flow in a similar manner to the primordial plasma that existed briefly after the Big Bang.
 
Making Peace with Germs
Want healthy kids? They should dig in the mud, ignore the five-second rule, and let the dog lick their face, according to journalist and author Michael Pollan. Drawing on research by scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Pollan argues that the Western obsession with sterility destroys the beneficial intestinal bacteria that regulate weight and stave off disease.
 
Bicep Size Predicts Political Ideology
How many curls a guy can do could be a sign of certain ideological leanings. Researchers reporting in Psychological Science found that rich men with big biceps were more opposed to wealth redistribution than their thin-armed, wealthy counterparts. The trend reversed at lower socioeconomic rungs: Poorer, big-bicepped men favored redistribution of wealth while weak guys were less supportive. “Evolutionarily speaking, write the authors, ‘it is a fitness error for weaker contestants to attempt to seize resources when they cannot prevail and for stronger ones to cede what they can cost-effectively defend,’ at least in men,” The Atlantic reports.
About Jordan Davidson

Jordan Davidson is a freelance writer based in New York.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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