A full-blown nuclear meltdown would be devastating for pregnant women and their fetuses, which are particularly vulnerable to the lasting effects of radiation. Should the worst-case scenario become a reality, it could lead to a generation of children born with all manner of maladies, from congenital malformation to mental retardation.
How Japan’s earthquake will affect unborn babies
The Twitterization of our culture has revolutionized our lives, but with an unintended consequence—our overloaded brains freeze when we have to make decisions.
From this week’s cover of NEWSWEEK: Sharon Begley on the science of decision-making
Christine O’Donnell [may have] crusaded against masturbation in the mid-1990s, denouncing it as “toying” with the organs of procreation and generally undermining baby making, [but[ the facts are to the contrary. Evidence from elephants to rodents to humans shows that masturbating is—counterintuitively—an excellent way to make healthy babies, and lots of them.
The always tasteful (even when talking about masturbation) Sharon Begley, on the scientific case for masturbation.
One of autism’s defining features is the inability to process even the most mundane social interactions. When police are involved, an autistic person’s anxiety level is likely to spike, triggering unnerving mannerisms or behaviors. The person may say nothing at all, appearing to ignore an officer’s commands. Or he may repeat back what somebody says to him, a form of communication medically known as echolalia. “You can imagine if a police officer comes up and says, ‘What’s your name?’ and the kid’s response is, ‘What’s your name?’ the police will figure he’s a smart aleck or he’s on drugs,” says Grossman. “Usually, the situation goes downhill from there.
Claudia Kalb on the conflict between people with autism and the cops. (via katedailey)
Newsweek/Nurture Shock Creativity Contest: Over on their Nurture Shock blog, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman are asking readers to take questions from the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. One of the tasks is described below:
In this drawing task, participants start with an incomplete figure, often no more than a scribbled shape. They add to it, turning it into a complete image. Use the incomplete figures to make pictures. Try to make them unusual. They should tell as interesting and complete a story as possible. Give each picture a title.
Here, we’re looking for something a little different, namely, how creative can you be if you’re not constrained by a pencil and paper? Our challenge: Take the above image and make a new image, using any tools you wish. You can print out the image, draw on it, scan it back in and submit, here; you can open up the image in Photoshop and digitally alter it; you can incorporate it into a Flash movie, etc. We’re looking for originality above all. Send us your best efforts, and we’ll publish them here and on Newsweek.com.
As 5-year-olds, the children who had been spanked were more likely than the nonspanked to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, become frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against other people or animals. The reason for this may be that spanking sets up a loop of bad behavior. Corporal punishment instills fear rather than understanding. Even if children stop tantrums when spanked, that doesn’t mean they get why they shouldn’t have been acting up in the first place. What’s more, spanking sets a bad example, teaching children that aggressive behavior is a solution to their parents’ problems.
The Long-Term Effects of Spanking - TIME (via apsies)
Hmm. Does this mean the University of Minnesota Spankological Protocol is no longer considered effective?
Adults with the least-healthy habits didn’t fit this pattern, found scientists led by Suzanne O’Neill of Georgetown University. The unhealthier people’s habits were, the more they latched on to genetic explanations for diseases (in particular, colon cancer, skin cancer, hypertension, and lung cancer). “Those most at risk are often the most likely to downplay and distance themselves from threatening health information,” the scientists conclude.
They suspect that this was a defensive reaction, in which people knew at some level that they were engaging in behaviors likely to lead to illness down the road (remember, these were all healthy adults at the time of the survey) but wanted to blame potential health problems on factors beyond their control. In the study, 25 percent of the participants were smokers, another 25 percent were not physically active five days a week, and 36 percent had a body-mass index above 30. If you think your plaque-clogged arteries, uncontrolled diabetes, or lung cancer will be caused by genes in the fertilized egg that became you—rather than your junk-food diet and two-pack-a-day habit—it absolves you of blame.
Begley, on why it’s not your genes’ fault.
The brain is in default mode when we stare into space, sleep, succumb to anesthesia, make our mind a blank while sitting motionless—in short, when the brain’s only task seems to be keeping us alive and breathing. This default activity, to everyone’s surprise, is no mere murmur in the background of a loud symphony. It is the symphony, consuming 20 times as much energy as the conscious life of the mind, including thinking, feeling, and using our senses—the mental acts captured by the brain imaging that so entrances the public. “The brain at rest is not at rest,” says neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone of Harvard. “Even more important, this resting activity is not random, but is well organized and constitutes the bulk of the brain’s activity.
Begley, on what’s going on when nothing is going on.
Could the seemingly inexhaustible supply of high-profile hypocrites reflect the fact that the media cover the George Rekers of the world and not your philandering, church-deacon neighbor? In a word, no. They are worse than the rest of us. There really is something about power that stokes hypocrisy, which is the practice of engaging in behavior that you condemn in others. According to new research in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science, there is a direct causal connection between power and hypocrisy—or between power and what the scientists unflinchingly call “sanctimony combined with lechery and gluttony.
Begley, on the science of hypocrisy
CureTogether and PatientsLikeMe are cranking out some interesting data findings right now. Notice that antidepressants don’t play a significant role in curing depression. Antidepressants are the modern snake oil. One day we’ll all wake up and realize that reductionist medicine and funny little pills don’t solve life’s complex social, behavioral, and situational challenges.
This reminds us of Begley’s nice “Antidepressants are no better than placebos" piece from earlier this year.