“Thinking fluids” and the science of studying crowds

By Molly Kozminsky

Although we have to wait until December 18 for the next Star Wars movie, some characters have already made an appearance in our lives as toys. Eager fans lined up for the release of the new toys at midnight on Force Friday, September 4, giving retailers a taste of the Black Friday crowds to come. So how should stores prepare for the upcoming sea of shoppers craving Star Wars swag?

Holiday shoppers on the warpath
Image credit

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The brain game

By Ellyn Schinke

What if you could play a game to improve your memory or rehabilitate after a stroke? And I don’t mean Sudoku or crossword puzzles either. I’m talking video games!

It’s no secret that gaming systems that involve whole body movement like Wii and Microsoft Kinect could be used as a tool to battle obesity in children in the United States. But many people have legitimate fears that video games could lead to addiction, social isolation, or excessive violence. Despite these concerns, research has shown that video games may be beneficial for reasons other than weight loss or hand-eye coordination. This research has suggested that there are neurological benefits of video games that could vastly outweigh the cons!

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What the nose wants: Why the scent of gasoline is irresistible to some

By Shweta Ramdas

A month or so ago, I casually mentioned to my labmates that I can’t get enough of the smell of gasoline, and that I had stolen a whiteboard marker from our lab to sniff when I was particularly frustrated with research. This had two results: my labmates now tease me mercilessly, and I realize that not everybody is as enamored by these smells as I am.

The latter was quite an epiphany: I had imagined that everyone finds the smell of gasoline ambrosial. So why isn’t it true? Being a geneticist, of course my first thought was that it must be all in the genes.

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Health literacy — It ain’t just about education

By Silver Lumsdaine

Literacy Drug_Package_Insert
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Drug Package Insert (FDA 115)

“The great enemy of communication…is the illusion of it.” –William H. Whyte

What if 9 out of every 10 Americans had trouble understanding and responding to ordinary traffic signs? It would be a national emergency, of course. Imagine the chaos, the crashes, and the loss of life that would occur if people didn’t know how to interpret stop signs, one way signs, do not enter signs, speed limits, and sharp curve ahead warnings. The public’s health and safety would be in grave danger and immediate action would be required.

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X: A reason calico cats xist.

By Shirley Lee

 

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Samantha. Image credit: Shirley Lee

Last year, I decided to add a new member to my family, which at the time consisted of simply yours truly (well, other members of the family do exist but live hundreds of miles from Ann Arbor). After some searching, I brought an orange tabby cat back to my apartment and named her Samantha (pictured at the top). Samantha is a domestic shorthair, with faint mackerel markings along the sides of her body. Her forehead bears the classic “M” pattern characterizing a tabby cat. She also has four stripy legs, pink paw pads, and an orange stripy tail. When I introduced her to my family back home, she wasted no time in conquering everyone with that fuzzy face!

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How fireflies illuminated our understanding of the world

By Noah Steinfeld

In the early 1950s at Johns Hopkins University, William E. McElroy, a young professor, wanted to figure out what makes fireflies glow. He would pay a quarter to children in the Baltimore area for every 100 fireflies they brought him. McElroy was regarded as a curiosity in the community: the stereotype of an eccentric scientist. But what these people didn’t know was that as a result of this research, McElroy would one day create a tool that would revolutionize the way scientists do biological research.

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Water splitting: One way to store solar energy

By Jimmy Brancho

The fuel source of the future might be a lot more familiar than you think.

Plenty of people are excited about solar energy’s replacing fossil fuels. Harvesting, processing, and burning fossil fuels is a major contributor to environmental pollution and political conflict. Could we reduce those problems by using solar energy instead? Industry seems to think so; the most recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory Data Book statistics show that electricity output from solar installations has grown continually throughout the last decade – nearly 75% from 2011 to 2012 alone.

But what happens when the sun goes down? Are you just supposed to not binge Netflix at midnight? Continue reading “Water splitting: One way to store solar energy”